Advent: Proximity in Relationships is a Thing

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.   John 1:1, 14

Last week at church, Pastor Jeremy preached from Isaiah 7:14, which says that one of the names of Jesus would be Emmanuel, “God with us”. Jeremy talked about God choosing to dwell with us, and he emphasized the importance of proximity in relationships. He pointed out that most of us would prefer to be in the same room with our favorite people rather than Skyping them from a distance.

This hit me hard. For awhile now I have had to maintain my relationships with my flown-the-coop children via phone calls and the occasional video chat. But this week… this week we get to be together for the first time in four months. I can tell you with certainty that proximity in relationships is a thing.

It’s a thing with God too. Which brings me to John 1:14, my favorite verse in the Bible. Here we see that Jesus, the Word with a capital W, left his place in heaven and came to live with us in person.

John 1:1 says that the Word, Jesus, was with God from the beginning. What does it mean that Jesus is the Word? It’s hard for us to visualize; there’s so much mystery packed into this name for Him. I love pondering it, though. Words are amazing; they’re our primary form of communication and the primary way God communicates with us. So when we call Jesus the Word, we’re saying He’s the originator of communication. We’re acknowledging that He is the wellspring of all truth.

So this Word, this heady, mystical incarnation of truth, wisdom, glory, power, and beauty, left His place in Heaven. He gathered up the totality of His truth, beauty and goodness and folded it into… a package of skin. He became a human, here. With us.

Jesus would have been perfectly within His rights to never leave Heaven at all. Or He could have come fully grown at age 33 ready to step onto the cross. But He didn’t. The Father and the Son together chose that Jesus would come exactly as all of us have come into this world: squeezed through a birth canal, crying into the cold world, bloody and hungry.

Why did He come to us this way? Was it the only way He would have known what it was like to be human? I don’t think it would have been too hard for Him to figure it out; Scripture tells us He knows how many hairs are on our heads. It tells us He knows us even better than we know ourselves. I think the reason He chose to come as a human baby and live with us is so we could believe – really believe – that He knows us and wants to be with us. Proximity in relationships is a thing.

When Rob and I go to pick up our traveler daughter from the airport, we’ll stand and watch for her in the crowd. We’ll try to recognize her right away by the coat she’s wearing. But even if she’s bought a new coat since we saw her last, I don’t think it will be a problem. As soon as she turns the corner, I’ll know her. I’ll know her by her walk, by the way her arms swing as she carries her suitcase, by the way the light catches her hair. And by the thousand other ways you know someone you’ve lived with day in and day out.

Jesus knows you like this. He knows the way you move, the way the light catches your hair, how you like your coffee in the morning. Jesus wants us to understand without a shadow of a doubt that He knows us at our core. He didn’t have to prove any of this to us, but He did anyway, because He wants you and I to know He meant what He said when He said He would never leave us or forsake us.

Because when He came that first time, He came for good. When His time as a human was up, He sent the other part of Himself, His spirit, to live with us. And we have the hope that we’ll get to see Him face to face someday.

At Christmas, the Word became Emmanuel and dwelt with us. Because proximity in relationships… well, it’s a thing, you know.

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