The Word was willing to get into the neighbourhood where we live.
By Bill Hall, National Director, Canada
In the opening of the Gospel of John we get a different – many would say much bigger – view of Jesus and the Incarnation as opposed to the birth narratives found in Luke and Matthew. The apostle John gives us a birth narrative in some sense, but he takes us beyond his present time and space to what he calls “the beginning.” He identifies Jesus as the Word who is God, the Word who has everlasting existence. Then John introduces us to John the Baptist and immediately compares the baptizer with the one who is the true light, the Word who became flesh.
I like how Eugene Peterson in the Message renders this:
The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1:14 MSG)
There has been a lot of talk in our denomination concerning identifying and doing ministry in “our neighbourhood.” This passage, which is read on the first Sunday of Epiphany, has been a personal epiphany or revealing to me.
Let me explain. When I think of “neighbourhood,” I’m reminded of growing up in a small mining town in Northern Ontario, Canada. In many respects, it was quite the close and isolated community. I grew up with parents who practiced both living and sharing the gospel.
One event that I particularly remember was the time a neighbour knocked on the door of our house late one winter night asking for my dad. When dad went to the door, she explained that one of her relatives had been taken to the hospital in a community more than two hours away, and she was in desperate need of funds to get there. (I knew this lady personally, as I delivered newspapers to her basement apartment and was aware that she and her children were not as well off as we were.) Without any hesitation, my father gave her the cash that she needed for the bus journey. It was a great example that he practiced and lived what he believed.
Now I know this is an extremely limited human example of someone who cared for one of his neighbours. Yet, I’ve come to again realize the monumental action of this “Word” coming to live among us. Flesh and blood—just like me. Living in my neighbourhood. Add to this the focus we have on place-sharing, and I see that Jesus entered my neighborhood so he could share the place with me, and with my neighbors, and with you, and with your neighbors.
Living in my neighborhood, I can know that he understands my life, my struggles, and the lives and struggles of my family, friends, and neighbours. Why? Because he was willing to get into my world, where I live.
How often do we hear the statement: “If you would just understand me….” Or “If you would just walk a mile (or kilometre), in my shoes….” Well, this omnipresent, majestic “Word,” the one who is very God, from before the beginning of time or the physical creation, does understand me. He has walked a mile in my shoes.
I love how the writer of Hebrews puts it:
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So, let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (Hebrews 4:14-16, MSG)
Praise be to the God who moved into the neighbourhood!