I learned some new facts. Because a baby's mouth and tongue muscles develop first, a baby will put things in the mouth to check them out and recognise them - we always thought it had to do with teething! And the skill of putting thumb and forefinger together is as big a milestone as walking - though this is often unrecognised.
But in all those early months of development - when other creatures are running around or learning to fly - the human baby is learning to communicate. And that was the theme of this week's episode which, again, we happened on quite by accident. There is so much garble, with inflections and all. But how we listen for that first recognisable word! What was it in your family? "No"? "Daddy"? "Mummy"?
Throughout our lives we express ourselves in many ways - through work and play, community and creativity Some things may be able to be "said in flowers", but sooner or later it has to be put into words. Words need to be expressed in actions, but our actions need to be explained in words.
God has expressed himself too. We learn something of his character from the created world. Paul wrote that "since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made " (Rom. 1.20). Of course, not everyone "gets the message" - which is what Paul is writing about in Romans 1. This is also part of the theme of John 1.
God's Word is a Person - "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" (Jn 1.1-3). John says that the Word "was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him" (v. 10). The Word is the reason and logic and order behind everything. Today, scientists study geology, biology, physiology, psychology That's their effort to understand the Word - the reason and logic and order behind the rocks and plants and structure of the human body and mind - how it all works. John is saying that there is a real tragedy that people understand so much about these things without knowing the God who is behind it all.
But God wants us to know him. So his Word, already expressed in
actions, needed to be explained in words. He did this by choosing
Abraham and the Hebrews to become the people through whom he would
give his Word to the world. Through their history and their prophets
God made his character, will and purpose ever so much clearer.
That doesn't mean that this chosen race was always loyal and faithful
to his Word. "He came to that which was his own, but his
own did not receive him. Yet to all who received 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" (vv. 10-13).
In February 2001 I was in Israel and saw the very large Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Right across the front façade are the words, Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis - from the Latin translation of John 1.14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us".
The human journey of the Word began here in Nazareth - as the angel announced to Mary, "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus" (Lk. 1.31).
He was hidden for nine months, until Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem, David's town, for the census ordered by the Caesar in Rome. "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (2.4-6).
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The Psalmist wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Ps. 19.1) - the Word of God in the creation. "Thus says the Lord " was the Word through the prophets. And now in Jesus - "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me " (Jn 7.16); "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (14.6); "These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me" (14.24); "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" (8.58)
When Jesus was born, he was the Word who became flesh and made his dwelling among us. God was speaking, not only in the creation, not only through the prophets, but directly through the Person of his Word. God was speaking, not only through the words of Jesus - he had done that previously through the prophets - but through the whole earthly life of his Son, the Word. His teaching is important. His acts of love that we call miracles are important. But his very life and presence here is important. The very Word of God had come and - to give it more literally - "pitched his tent" among us. And when we human beings tried to kill that life and rid ourselves of that presence - what did Herod have over the rest of us? - when we had him crucified, God made that the very means by which our sins can be forgiven. From the cross we hear the Son cry out, "Forgive them, Father, for they don't know what they are doing!"
God was speaking to all humanity about human sin. He was speaking to you and to me about our own personal sin. God wants us to know and live in his love and forgiveness. He came for you and for me. He died for you and for me. He came alive again for you and for me.
It's Christmas! God is speaking. Are you listening? The angel announced, "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Christ the Lord".
Have you heard that? Have you grasped it? Do you know that is for you? Have you received Jesus as your Saviour and Lord?
One of our old Sunday School songs said,
Those words are based on the parable of the wise man and the foolish man. It comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock Everyone who hears these words of mine and does put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand " (Mt 7.24-27).
It's Christmas. God is speaking. To you has been born the Saviour, Christ the Lord - born for you! Are you listening? He came for all your life, for the whole year - to be your Saviour and Lord. Have you received him? Have you welcomed him?