Light Incarnate

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 was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

The true light, which gives light to 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. 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 1:9-10, 14

Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” John 12:36

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so thatthey may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

We are talking about light. Latin lux, lumen.
And we are talking about incarnation. Latin incarnatio. Embodiment. Taking on flesh.
The mysterious taking on the material. Light becoming touchable. The Word who was with God—and who was God—from before the beginning of time. He was the One who created all things. In Him was life.

This Word—this eternally existent Creator—was the light of men, shining in the darkness, the light of the world to be followed, to be believed. This Word—life, light—gives true light to everyone, and yet even though His light shone in the darkness and couldn’t be overcome by it, eyes were blinded and people did not know Him. They did not recognize Light wrapped in flesh. He counseled His disciples to believe in Him, in the light, in order to become sons of light. He preached to a multitude saying that they who believed were not just sons of light, but were in fact the light of the world (which is what Jesus said of Himself as well), meant to shine before others so that their good works would be seen and glory given to the Father in heaven.

St. Athanasius wrote in On The Incarnation, “For we were the purpose of his embodiment, and for our salvation he so loved human beings as to come to be and appear in a human body.” “The Self-revealing of the Word is in every dimension—above, in creation; below, in the Incarnation; in the depth, in Hades; in the breadth, throughout the world. All things have been filled with the knowledge of God.” “There were thus two things which the Savior did for us by becoming Man. He banished death from us and made us anew; and, invisible and imperceptible as in Himself He is, He became visible through His works and revealed Himself as the Word of the Father, the Ruler and King of the whole creation.” “The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half way. He became Himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body.”

This is a beautiful and mysterious way to describe the material One who was Spirit incarnate. God who took on flesh. Material and immaterial knit together in inexplicable but perfect harmony and balance. Douglas Wilson wrote in God Rest Ye Merry, “What is the great mystery of godliness? What is the foundation of our salvation? God was manifest in the flesh. We sometimes do not appreciate the magnitude of the problem here. How could the eternal Word of the eternal Father take on limits? How can infinitude and finitude marry? The doctrine of the Incarnation proclaims frankly and without embarrassment the most stupendous miracle that can be imagined. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the Incarnate Deity. But we are dealing with mysteries and miracles, not contradictions… The body that was broken on the cross was the same body that was formed in the womb of the virgin. And that body was taken on by the eternal Word in order that it might be broken. The blood that began to circulate in the veins of Jesus before He was even born was the same blood that was to be shed for you many years later. If the body that was suckled by Mary was a different one from the one that died on the cross, we are all still in our sins… The virgin birth is an important “handmaiden miracle,” pointing to the central miracle itself, which is the Incarnation. The thing that should stagger us is the “God with us” part, and not the virgin birth. The virgin birth points to this greater miracle. And because God is with us, thus we are saved… We believe in the Incarnation, in the Word made flesh. This is our glory: this is our salvation.”

So this brings it all the way around: the Word became incarnate in order to fulfill the prophecies and laws, to save His people from our sins. He created us in His image, we marred that image with sin (beginning with our father Adam), He took on our created flesh and then spiritually bore our sin when His body died, and then not just the Word—the Spirit—was raised from the dead but so was His body. The incarnation was not suppressed, suspended or ceased by the death and resurrection of the Word of God made flesh in Jesus. His body was touched after His resurrection, He ate, He was recognized. And when He ascended into heaven, in Luke 24 it talks about His hands being lifted up in blessing. And in Acts 1 we read about how He was taken up while His disciples were watching Him—He was still incarnate, else He would not have been seen—and also that “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” In the same way. Incarnate. Manifest in flesh. This is no inconsequential detail. This is a core tenet of the Gospel. Good news. God became man. Incarnate Deity. Not for thirty-three years only. But for all time. He became like us so that we could become more & more like Him.

He is the Light so that we can see by Him, follow Him, and let the world know who is in charge. For without the Word, nothing was made. And without the Light, we only stumble blindly in the darkness.

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