“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14
- noun [in sing. ]
- the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event : the advent of television.
- • ( Advent) the first season of the church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.
- • ( Advent) Christian Theology the coming or second coming of Christ.
- ORIGIN Old English , from Latin adventus ‘arrival,’ from advenire, from ad- ‘to’ + venire ‘come.’
There are things that disrupt the way we live, relate or work. The arrival of new things are disruptive. The advent of the telegraph. This ushered in long distance communication while shortening the time that was needed for the travel of the message. Then came the radio. We no longer had to run wires to communicate long distance. Then we developed television. Now we could send information, audio and video. The arrival of these things is disruptive because it fundamentally changes the nature and mode of long distance communication.
John uses this same analogy of communication or “word” to give us an abstract illustration about the nature of Jesus’ advent and His incarnation. Advent has forever changed our mode and way of understanding and relating to God. What was veiled in metaphor and symbol. What was prophets of old communicating far off oracles has now changed. In a small stable of Bethlehem the very author writes himself into the story. His advent is the most disruptive event in the history of the universe. The Author has become the Word in his very own story. Let advent be the disruptive event God designed it to be.
“…My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are ‘offended’ by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not” – CS Lewis in “A Grief Observed”
Ever try to describe something so magnificent or beautiful, that your words or thoughts just couldn’t do it justice? So it is when we try to describe God. Thinking about God leaves us speechless—in a good way.
Over the next month or so, we will be looking at the idea of who God is and what He is like. Theologians have spilled a lot of ink writing about who God is. Sometimes the best way to describe Him, is actually to say who He isn’t.
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
God invented language it would only seem fitting that the very vehicle which he invented would be incapable of delivering His full disclosure.
The early Church fathers used the term apophatic theology. Words are inadequate at describing someone so magnificent. God is ineffably sublime.
We often describe God as invisible, immortal, unchangeable, infinite, unrivalled, unequalled. We often used apophatic words and don’t even realise we are doing deep theology. In saying what he isn’t we clearly delineate who He is.
God’s character nature cannot be described by words. His nature and character are only fully known by his self disclosure in Jesus, The Word made flesh.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” This perfectly sums up the attitude of Nehemiah and his friends. He is now weeks into his building project. He is no longer mustering builders, inspiring ideas or repelling external threats. He has discovered that he is his own worst enemy.
Neh. 5:1 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.
Read Nehemiah 5:1-13
The Threat from Within
In this chapter the enemies and the city walls recede from view, to reveal a more subtle problem. Here the menace is hunger and exploitation, and the structure at risk is the community itself. We see another aspect of Nehemiah’s burdens and his leadership. Certainly the final paragraph takes us twelve years further on.
Judah’s history had not begun with Nehemiah’s arrival, nor even with the ‘great trouble and shame’ which were reported to him in Susa. His diverting of manpower from raising crops to raising walls may have been the final burden; it did not have to be the first. Now the people were facing food shortages.
Nehemiah discovers and resolves this internal struggle in chapter 5 through solidarity. He is now the leader of his people. He does not solve the problem by booming commands. He solves the problem through the strength of identification. Their problems become his. His resources become theirs.
Just as Nehemiah solves his peoples dilemma with identification, so it is with us. Jesus’ identification with humanity, becoming one of us, leads to the greatest healing ever. It is in the incarnation that God heals the enemy within. Gregory of Nazianzus when speaking of Jesus, God’s Son, becoming human put it wonderfully, “That which is unassumed is unhealed.” It is only by Jesus becoming fully human that God can fully heal us.