Read John 1:9-14
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 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. (NIV)
Little baby Jesus lying in the animal feedbox probably looked nothing like God. Even allowing for the obvious point that none of us actually knows what God looks like. The baby wrapped in swaddling clothes looked just like any other baby. And even when he grew up, Jesus looked like any other child of his culture—Middle Eastern appearance! Certainly as he hung bloody and naked on the cross he couldn’t be mistaken for God.
And yet, this is exactly who Jesus was. In this passage, John reminds us that God became human. ‘Word’ is essentially God’s self-expression; it is a term used for Jesus here. The phrase John uses is that Jesus pitched his tent among us; he joined us in our pilgrim journey, he entered fully into our life. John says that his glory has been seen. Not his mere appearance, but what he did, what he said, and the sort of person he was. Glory comes in different forms it seems. Not all heavenly choirs and hallelujahs, but also wise words, gracious gestures, and costly suffering.
What marks Christians out from those who are merely religious is that they see beyond baby Jesus and the fine upstanding moral teacher he grew up to be. They believe he is God in human form, God expressing himself in a language we humans can understand. As John suggests, not all saw him that way. After all, those who want to burrow around in the darkness won’t welcome light. But those who did recognise their need of his rescue and those who flung themselves on him become children of God. They enter a special personal relationship with God made possible by Jesus’ pardon and new life.
Jesus may not have measured up to what many human beings would imagine to be a human expression of God. But perhaps our imaginations are all wrong. God was once a baby, a carpenter, a crucified criminal. He got his hands dirty in order to bring us back to himself. God knows, as we all do, that if you want to be sure something is done it is best to do it yourself.