The Word Became Flesh
by the Rev. Lee Woofenden

Bridgewater, Massachusetts, December 24, 1999
Christmas Eve


Isaiah 52:7-10 Your God reigns

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

John 1:1-14 The Word became flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him not one thing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God--children born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

Matthew 1:18 -25 The birth of Jesus Christ

The birth of Jesus the Christ took place in this way: When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will name him Emmanuel," which means, "God with us."

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no union with her until she had borne a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-12 The visit of the Magi

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him. Calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for it has been written by the prophet, 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I too may go and worship him."

When they had heard the king, they went on their way; and the star that they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they returned to their country by another road.


And the Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:14)

My daughter Heidi and I have a new thing going. A few weeks ago I got a cable modem for our Internet connection. After much tearing out of hair, I managed to get both the upstairs computer that I use in my study and the downstairs computer that Heidi and Patty use networked to the cable modem. Both are now continuously connected to the Internet.

Now that she's not blocking our phone line every time she goes online, Heidi likes to get on the computer and chat with her friends. And of course, she knows where she'll find me much of the time: in front of my computer! I'll be innocently putting together the Sunday service or writing the sermon, and suddenly a message pops up on my screen. It's Heidi saying, "Papa, will you please chat with me?" If I'm not too far behind schedule, we'll type back and forth to each other for a little while. (If you're getting worried that I now have an entirely virtual relationship with my daughter, rest assured that we do see each other in person at supper time each day!)

Sometimes, though, the window will pop up and it's Heidi saying, "Papa, will you come down and help me with something?" I'll ask her what it is, and if it's fairly basic, I'll type some suggestions to her. (I can type faster than I can walk.) Often that works. But occasionally, after few minutes have gone by, she'll type back, "I can't figure it out. Would you please, please come down and help me?"

Sometimes there is simply no substitute for going in person and helping out face to face. This is exactly the situation--though on a far grander scale--that the Lord was referring to when he wrote through the prophet Isaiah:

The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no human to intervene. So his own arm worked salvation for him. (Isaiah 59:15, 16)

You see, the Lord had already tried sending us messages when we cried out for help under the burden of all that is wrong with our world and with ourselves. The Lord had already given us written instructions, delivered through the spiritual "Internet" of inspired lawgivers and prophets like Moses and Isaiah. In the Bible and the other sacred literature of our world, God had given us a how-to manual thousands of pages long about life and how to live it.

But we still didn't get it. We still thought that it was okay to be just a little bit jealous or greedy or egotistical--and if someone got hurt in the process, well, they'd get over it. Somehow, we still thought of them as The Ten Pretty Good Ideas (When It's Convenient) instead of The Ten Commandments. Somehow we still kept practicing injustice and oppression, and we still brought pain and sorrow upon one another, and upon ourselves.

The Lord saw that working through human go-betweens--prophets and priests--would not overcome the spiritual enemies of humankind and bring us joy and peace. It was time to come and face personally all the evils of the world. As Emanuel Swedenborg wrote:

If Jehovah God had not taken upon himself a human form, and in this way clothed himself with a body at the outmost level, he could not have accomplished any kind of redemption. For how can anyone attack an enemy without coming and equipping himself with weapons to use in fighting them? (True Christian Religion #124.1)

Yes, the Lord came personally to face and overcome all the forces of evil that were dragging humanity down to its destruction.

But Jesus' life was not only about helping us by struggling against evil and hell. It was also about showing us the way to heaven by his own personal example. When he gave us the Bible and we still didn't "get it," he came down from heaven. He became a human being very much like ourselves and lived among us. Instead of just talking about it, he showed us how to live in a way that will give us the peace and harmony of mutual love and understanding instead of the mutual misunderstanding and conflict that we naturally fall into.

The Lord had taught us in writing how to love God above all, and our neighbor as ourselves. Now he has come down personally and shown us how to do it. The life of Jesus gives us the most powerful example of what it means to be truly loving, wise, and human.

Jesus invites each of us to follow his example. Jesus invites us to take his divine Word and flesh it out through intensely human lives of thoughtfulness, kindness, and love. Amen.