Broken-down Poetry: The Word


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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Word

At my resident hall's Christmas banquet, I received a "paper plate award" from my RA--something everyone in our dorm was granted as something both goofy and sentimental. The title and picture of the award, scrawled with crayons on a paper plate, reminded us that we are unique women with different gifts and talents. (Or that someone has a very obvious obsession worth taunting.)

But my award summed up my entire three-and-a-half month college experience; I received the "I'm in Love with the Old Testament" award.

Now, I didn't know I was in love with the Old Testament until I took the history course as a gen. ed. It turns out I am pretty intrigued by this whole "first covenant" business. I even love it enough to have written songs about the kings of Israel and Judah ... to the tune of Disney favorites.

I have a pretty good memory too. So if someone mentions King Jehoram in casual conversation, I can rattle off a few facts about him, like that he died from a fatal bowel disease and that no one mourned his death. You know, stuff like that.

But since the class ended, I knew that I had to move on. I can't live in BC times forever. So instead of delightfully reading the minor prophets before bed, I have made myself move on to the New Testament. (Granted, the first book back-to-the-NT was the book of Hebrews, but it was a step in the right direction, no?)

But then, alas, I finished that book as well. And though I was tempted to read Romans, which is also filled with a lot of Jewish history, I chose the book of John. Yip-ee.

The book starts so familiar, bringing me back to the Hebrew Scriptures: In the beginning ...

But it's a little different: In the beginning was the Word.

The Word.

I've heard so many sermons on this chapter that I was tempted to move on to the good stuff--when John starts quoting Isaiah and the prophets. But I kept reading.

The Word became flesh and made its dwelling among us.

A few Sundays ago my pastor Steve talked about this passage. He said that the Word was so powerful that it brought things to life. With one breath the LORD spoke the earth into existence. Without the Word, there's death because all life comes from the Word. He went on to say that God does not talk, he speaks. Every word has purpose; every word holds meaning.

But that was nothing.

Wait until the Word put on flesh.

Words aren't enough. Pastor Steve compared it with email: it's easy to sound eloquent and sophisticated in email--or blogs--by using labyrinthine rhetoric. (ha.) But it's hard to show emotion. It's difficult to be yourself when you can sound like anyone you want in text.

But in person ... that's a whole other story. By showing up, people can sense emotions and can feel love not restricted to just verbal communication. A hug, a kiss, an eye roll, a wink, a smirk, a hair-toss: they cannot be expressed through words on a computer screen. A loved one's smile is much more meaningful than this :-).

When the Word becomes flesh, it's powerful.

Things start to make sense.

If God only spoke on the mountain like he had to Moses or in a bedroom to Samuel, man's concept of the divine would remain restricted. God had to send someone--flesh and blood--to give it meaning.

To take the Word and turn it into a picture. Into a lifestyle.

For some reason, the Law wasn't cutting it. "God needs a body."

He needed someone to show what God's looking for, someone to exemplify his command to act JUSTLY, to love MERCY and to walk HUMBLY with him (Micah 6:8).

And God knew that the Word wouldn't be enough soon after he made creation. For two chapters of Genesis the Word brings life, and by chapter three he promises Flesh: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).

That Seed being God-in-flesh.

And what intrigues me even more is that the promise holds more weight than some later prophecy. The Hebrew word for seed is zera', a masculine noun translated as "offspring," "children" or even as "sperm." God will put an enmity between you [man] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed [sperm]."

Funny, I didn't know women had that stuff.

We jump to the book of Isaiah with his prediction of the virgin (alma) birth. And then to Luke chapter one with Mary and her husband-to-be, a son of David.

The Word became flesh and made its dwelling among us. Not as the prophets had, not as the priests had, not as kings had or the Levites or Nazirites. But in his own unique way: from a virgin's seed.

In the "hustle and bustle" of the holiday season, it's so easy to view Christmas as just Jesus' birthday, like yours or mine. But this is something much bigger. This is "Let There Be Light" healing the sick and walking on water; this is "I Am" overcoming death.

This is the Word that spoke the earth and sun into existence wrapped in rags and placed in a feeding trough.

And this is what Christmas is about:

the Word putting on skin, coming down to earth to "pitch tent" in order to visibly show God's love.

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