The Word became flesh and lived among us. What an amazing statement in John 1:14. The Word that appeared to Abram to pull him out of religion into relationship, that Word who appeared to the prophets through the centuries, was now made flesh. The Word of God the Father, became a man. Let's look at that.
What happened in heaven
Hebrews 1:1-3 explains what we've been looking at the past 3 weeks:
"God (the Father) at various times and in many ways spoke to the fathers by the prophets. But He has in these last days spoken to us by His Son...who is the brightness of (the Father's) glory, the express image of (the Father's character) and who upholds all things by the Word of (the Father's) power..."
This Christ, the Anointed One, lived with the Father in glory all of man's existence and before, but would as the above says, at various times speak to the prophets down through the centuries until the time came to reveal Him as God's Son, the Word of the Father's power.
Philippians 2:7 says He 'emptied Himself', which is the literal meaning of the Greek word used here, 'ekenosen'. The self-emptying Son of God, not of His deity, but of His rights and privileges of being God's Son. He chose not to exploit His privilege, but wanted to use His great authority to restore mankind to the Father.
My most solemn vision
Many years ago, among the first visitations I had with the Lord and with my guardian angel, I asked the angel how they (angels) regarded we mere humans, for now we are less in rank but one day will be over them in rank. He looked at me with horror that I'd even hint at them not liking the future reversal.
"It is RIGHT! It is PROPER! Remember, we know Him as Creator, but you know Him as Savior!" And with that I was in the Spirit, taken to heaven, watching an event unfold as a mere bystander as if I were at a parade but with no emotional attachment to the event before me. I was just there, watching, and not knowing why I was there.
What seemed to be millions of angels were standing before the throne of the Father, which was an intense light that didn't hurt my eyes at all, I just simply could not see any details, but that wasn't the focus of attention anyway.
Suddenly, out of the light of the Father's throne came walking the Lord Jesus, as if stepping out of a bright fog to be revealed as he continued slowly, deliberately, looking straight ahead. He did not turn around to look at the Father, He just kept walking quietly, solemnly, on.
As He passed where I was standing, though as one several feet/meters back from Him, as if I had arrived too late at a parade to get the closest seats to the street - the angels parted to let Him pass through their midst, some looked on, some lowered their heads, some knelt on 1 knee with lowered eyes, some knelt on both knees. I just stood and watched as what was happening was very solemn, not a sound was heard, no one spoke. Heaven was deadly serious about whatever was being played out in front of me. The angels were worshipful, reverent, and amazed. As He had just passed where I was...
Suddenly we were back in my living room, and my angel continued: "You just saw what happened when He left heaven to be conceived in Mary's womb. We know Him as Creator. That He, our Creator, would humble Himself to become one of His creations for the purpose of suffering death because of His great love for you, is beyond us and wonderful. We are amazed at His love for you. You know Him as SAVIOR, and it is good, and it is right, and it is proper that you be over us, for the great love with which you are loved."
It was nearly a year later that I happened to be reading Hebrews 10:5-7 when the depth of what I saw suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks: "Sacrifice and offerings are not what you wanted, but a body is what you've prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure. Then I said, Look, I am coming, in the fullness of the book it is written of me, to do your will O God (Father)."
That body was given in Mary's womb. We don't know how it was He emptied Himself to be conceived as an embryo and growing baby in her womb, but it happened. We know that the blood traits are carried by the male, not the egg of the woman, thus in mankind sin is passed father to son and on to all mankind. But this blood was different because the Source of conception was heavenly.
Thus the Father's Son carried pure blood, untainted by sin, in his veins. All man, yet all God, the Word appearing here and there through centuries to mankind, now took upon Himself human flesh for all eternity. For He is raised from the dead as a man as well, now a glorified body, but a human body still.
And so it was the angel Gabriel told Mary how conception would happen: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest (Christ, the Word of the Lord, as Hebrews 1:3 states, is the Power of the Most High) will overshadow you, therefore the holy one to be born of you will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35
The word 'overshadow' is interesting as it means 'to throw a shadow upon', as a cloud passing overhead. It was in that overshadowing that Christ, the Word of the Father's power, emptied Himself of all rights and privileges as God's Son, to become a human baby in the womb, albeit with pure blood untainted by sin in His veins. Not half God half man, but 100% God and 100% man.
Luke 2:8 tells us shepherds were in the fields watching over their flocks. This only occurred in spring and fall, and many expected Messiah to appear in the fall Feast of Tabernacles, called the Festival of Lights, celebrating God living with man. We should note the sign given to the shepherds by the angel: "And this will be a sign to you; you will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a feed trough."
Historically, we know as Israel grew and cities swelled, many families didn't have animals required for sacrifices. Also, the population of the tribe of Levi grew along with the rest of the nation, yet only a small number were required in service to the temple.
By the time of Jesus many Levites had become shepherds and raisers of other animals to supply the animals used in sacrifices for the city dwellers, to be sold in the temple, and their home area was Bethlehem. So it was priests that these angels appeared to, to tell them Messiah the Great Shepherd and final sacrifice, had been born.
But why was 'swaddling clothes' a sign? Swaddling clothes is what we'd call today, underwear. The softest cloth available, as you can imagine, is what was used to wrap the newborn Jesus. But to priests these clothes meant something additional.
In the temple, used swaddling clothes from priests were turned into wicks for the lamps in the temple. The greatest of these lamps is called 'The Light of the World'. It was during the Feast of Tabernacles, the Festival of Lights, that the Light of the World lamp was lit with great ceremony, burning the oil and wick of swaddling clothes. That sign, the oil representing the Holy Spirit, and the 'wick' which was Christ Jesus to be later 'burned' as the last sacrifice on the cross, that was the sign to the priest-shepherds.
And this whole series of Abram stepping out of the repetitious wheel of religious exercise to actually know God, finds its conclusion when the Word of the Lord, that One who appeared to mankind through the centuries, was made flesh and lived among us, that we may know God.
That is why the Luke 2:13-14 says immediately after the lone angel tells the shepherds the sign of the swaddling clothes: "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army (host), praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men."
That is not saying you all be at peace with one another - it is the armies of heaven saying glory to God, He is saying 'peace and good will towards mankind'. The Word became flesh - the expression of the Father and His love for us, embodied once and forever in Christ Jesus. Amazing grace. And that is why it is by faith, not ritual, that we might receive His grace. Amen and Merry Christmas!