The last place I expected graffiti was on the door of a church. Serving as a minister to a growing, suburban congregation afforded little time to oneself. Consequently, I would often withdraw to a room at the opposite end of the building. There I was free of most interruptions and distractions.
Not ostentatious but etched in the brown door at eye level were three words: GOD WAS HERE. Obviously an innocent gag, probably written by one of the creative teenagers with whom I worked. Admittedly, reading such a statement in a church does make one slightly uncomfortable.
A week later I returned to my place of quiet. I needed peace from the frustrations of a crowded day. I noticed that the graffiti had been tampered. Altering graffiti occurs on buildings and bridges, but in a church?! But there it was, not blatant, but changed. And better yet, my training confirmed, more theologically accurate. For someone had crossed out "was" and written above it "is". In a quiet room the message of Christmas was proclaimed: GOD IS HERE.
It was the message that the angels announced, that the shepherd's heard, that the wise men sought, that Herod feared, that the world did not even notice. It was the message that Mary cradled and that Joseph admired. It was the message wrapped in cloths. It was the little baby Jesus.
"God is here" is the message of Christmas
Jesus, God's one and only Son, became a man. He was God in a suit of flesh. He was the visible expression of the invisible deity. God was expressing Himself in a language that we could understand. God was identifying with the frailties and tragedies of the human race. God was getting up close and personal. God was announcing to the world: "I'm here!"
God became a man. The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And He who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
The apostle John used one word to embody this revelation of God. Theologians may write long books to explain the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus, but John epitomizes it in a single word -- dwelt. "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14
). Eugene Petersen in The Message paraphrases this verse, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14
). Dwelt meant "to live in a tent". Or as military folks would understand "to bivouac." Or as theologians define "to tabernacle."
In the Old Testament this word dwelt and its derivatives literally denote "residence." Often the word was used to depict the glorious presence of God that resided in the tabernacle and Solomon's temple. So when Jesus became flesh and blood He moved into the neighborhood; He took up residence; He "tabernacled" among us.