The truth about Jesus’ birth was that it was perfectly divine and yet perfectly earthly.
On the one hand, you have glorious angels proclaiming the arrival of Messiah. You have God come in the flesh – Emmanuel. There is promise, peace, hope, and joy.
On the other – you have a tired (and new) set of parents, terrified shepherds, and a stable devoid of luxury. There is humility, awe, frailty, and imperfection.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. -John 1:14
This has always been one of my favorite thoughts during Christmastime.
It’s the most succinct explanation as to why we celebrate the birth of a poor Jewish man born 2000 years ago.
There are three contrasts between the divine and humanity in this verse.
(side note – don’t you love that shepherd’s purple hat?)
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us
Every decree and prophecy of God Almighty was brought to life in human flesh.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. -Philippians 2:5-7
God became a man – and pitched his tent in the midst of us. Whereas before, when God was only approachable through the temple; Now he was freely available.
We have seen his glory
John, Peter, Andrew, and many other people were witnesses to the magnificent glory of Christ. Fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, centurions, and even pharisees experienced the glory of God and were forever changed.
God could have come to earth in disguise – as a spectator of sorts. But he chose to reveal himself – and to the most unlikely people. He wasn’t entirely out of reach, but he never claimed any earthly titles or power either.
In order to truly see Christ for what he was, and experience his glory, we had to have a deep desire and need for what he came to offer.
Full of grace and truth
^This. This is what Christ’ purpose on earth was.
If God came to earth as a human, we might be fearful as to what he intended to do. We would be even more scared if we saw his divine glory without knowing his intentions. Did he come to judge? To punish?
No – even the angels reassured the shepherds that they had good news of great joy.
God came as a human, revealed himself to mankind, and his purpose in doing so was to extend a hand to us.
He stooped low to lift us high.
God came to extend grace (charis) and reveal truth (aletheia). Can you see the contrast there?
We know what the greek word for grace means – unmerited favor. So Jesus was full of favor towards us even when we didn’t deserve it. The word grace in this sense means action. In other words, Jesus was the living salvation come to mankind.
The word used for truth in this verse is aletheia. Are you familiar with Plato’s theory of forms? If not, I highly suggest looking up the allegory of the cave.
Basically, Plato says that humanity can only see the physical world, which is a shadow of the true form. It’s pretty weird, but if you think about it in a divine sense, it makes sense.
The tabernacle in the wilderness was but a shadow. The law was a shadow. Sacrifices were a shadow. Even some of the things we do as Christians are but a shadow of the divine form.
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. -Colossians 2:17
But, John says that Jesus was full of truth. He represented the divine, eternal forms. He was the light – shining understanding on the shadows.
It’s a mystery that we will never fully comprehend in this life. How the Creator entered his creation. He came to get his hands dirty, yet he was never soiled or spoiled.