In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 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 concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
– John 1:1-14
“I learned about incarnation when I kept a salt-water aquarium. Management of a marine aquarium, I discovered, is no easy task. I had to run a portable chemical laboratory to monitor the nitrate levels and the ammonia content. I pumped in vitamins and antibiotics and sulfa drugs and enough enzymes to make a rock grow. I filtered the water through glass fibers and charcoal, and exposed it to ultraviolet light. You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one ‘emotion’ only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince them of my true concern.
“To my fish I was deity. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and ‘speak’ to them in a language they could understand.
“A human being becoming a fish is nothing compared to God becoming a baby. And yet according to the Gospels that is what happened in Bethlehem. The God who created matter took shape within it, as an artist might become a spot on a painting or a playwright a character within his own play. God wrote a story, only using real characters, on the pages of real history. The Word became flesh.”
– Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
I always wanted a salt-water aquarium. I had fresh-water aquariums when I was growing up. I was good at getting live-bearing fish to reproduce, but the egg layers were another thing entirely. I thought salt-water would be something different. Our children were small. I would have to do the work, but when I got the lecture from the pet store fish expert – very similar to Yancey’s description above, my wife and I decided it was too much trouble. We went with the fresh-water fish and the boys had fun for a while. The tank eventually became the home of their pet gerbil.
Yancey makes the statement that the incarnation was an amazing thing. This mirrors C. S. Lewis and Eric Metaxas, who both wrote about the incarnation being among the greatest of miracles, along with the resurrection. God had become man.
The analogy of the fish tank is vivid in my mind. The fish did everything they could to get away from you, just as most humans do today with God. They create this shield around them, ignoring all the signs of God in everything. In their minds, God does not exist, thus nothing to be afraid of, and importantly, no one to tell them what to do. The children of Israel saw visible signs of the presence of God from a point soon after crossing the Red Sea until they set foot in the Promised Land. They received manna, just like the fish in the tank. Yet, they denied God’s power. They were afraid to take the land, promised to them by God. They wandered in the wilderness. As they wandered, they complained.
We are like that. We thank God on Thanksgiving day (in the US) just to follow that day with a buying frenzy – first with Black Friday, but it goes until the stores close on 24 December. Why do we buy, buy, buy? Because we are not satisfied with what God provided. Thus we sink in debt to satisfy our wants.
We would do no better if God’s shadow passed nearby. We would be like the fish, hiding.
Yet, Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. Almighty God left His life outside time and space and for a little over 30 years, the Son of God dwelt in human form.
In human form, being just like us, He could relate to any one of us. Right? He could, but He didn’t. The disciples were not influential men. Jesus seemed to dine with more ‘sinners’ than with religious leaders. The religious leaders were afraid of Him even then. They were afraid that He might upset the apple cart that made them the powerful people of the land. (Not counting the Romans, but the religious leaders had an agreement with the Romans.) Note how unimpressed Pontius Pilate was when they sent Jesus to him to be crucified. This ‘revolution’ that the religious leaders feared through Jesus had not even reached Pilate’s consciousness. It was strictly a Jewish religious problem in his eyes.
Are you the fish swimming for the nearest shell to hide? Or do you boldly see God for who He is, a loving God who wants to have a relationship with us?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.