Click here to listen to this sermon.

In the Disney movie "Bedtime Stories," Adam Sandler discovers that when his nephew and niece tell stories, they come true and change his life. In the movie "Inkheart," soon to be released, a girl named Meggie learns that when her father reads a story out loud, the stories come to life in the real world.

It’s a well-known theme in books and now movies in which a story comes to life or people from the real world enter into a world of a story. Two recent films, "Bedtime Stories" and "Inkheart," build on this. Classic films and books like "Never-Ending Story" and "Chronicles of Narnia" are good examples.

We can understand why this genre would be so captivating. We love stories. We live our lives through stories. When this world seems so messed up and confused, who wouldn’t want to jump into the world of story where the villains are conquered, the heroes win, and they live happily ever after.

There’s also something to be said here about the power of stories and words. They can shape reality and form identity. Anyone who believes that a story is just make believe has forgotten how really good stories and really important words can catch our attention and make us better people.

The Bible, after all, is a collection of words, sayings, and stories that have shaped reality. It endures even now and we put a lot of faith into the way the Bible describes the world. It speaks of the past, but also of the future. It describes what is and what has been, but also what will be.

Those films and books that describe how we get caught up in the stories is just somewhat like John’s description of the Word of God becoming flesh – real – and moving into our world. Sort of – but not exactly. The difference is that the author of the story, according to the gospel writer, is God. It’s his Word, not ours.

God’s Word takes up residence in our world. He doesn’t come to carry us off to a world in a book or enlist our aid in a war in another realm. The Word of God is the one who enters into the story-realm and the story-realm is this world. The world of flesh and blood. The Word of God wrote this world - through him all things were made – we are the characters, not Him.

And like John the Baptist, we are witnesses of this unfolding drama. We are witnesses to the entrance of God into this setting and locale. The Word of God is not simply ink on a page. It’s more than a profound slogan etched in stone. It’s even more than a formula of faith whispered and told to others.

The Word of God is God
The Word of God is life
The Word of God is light ... and here’s the really interesting part – that word was embodied and he came to dwell among us.

So what does this mean for us? If we pay attention, I think it means that ...

  1. It means we see God more clearly. God isn’t far off. The Word of God became flesh in Jesus Christ. He came from the Father and makes the Father known to us. Think about what it means for God to introduce himself to us. He’s no longer just a concept or a presence. Grace and truth are not just concepts. They are an experience of Jesus Christ who came to dwell with us. Not just a visitation, but dwelling. He took up residence, he moved into the neighborhood. And he is still with us.
  2. It means that our world and our lives in the flesh count for something. The Word of God doesn’t become flesh to take us to a far off reality. He comes to renovate the world we are in. If we think of Christ as the author of the story, he’s entered into the story to do some major editing and revision. He’s changing the plot. And like a good author, he has a shocking secret to reveal – God has other children. That’s one of the classic moves in literature and now we find out that those who receive the Word made Flesh inherit their rights as the Father’s children. (But of course some just cannot handle that and they reject it). But he’s not taking the children out of the world. No, this world isn’t disposable. He’s not starting over from scratch, but he is affirming this creation and restoring it to the glory that we have lost. After all the word is life and light.
  3. It means that we don’t want to be like those who didn’t receive the Word Made Flesh. They are the bookkeepers and critics. They like to fit everything into a category and style that fits their experience. They have little regard for the author (other than a reverence for one who seems far off and unlike them.) Notice how they quiz John the Baptist ... Is he Christ? Is he Elijah? He says No and it doesn’t satisfy them. John is faithful and open to what he has seen. He saw heaven opened up. He saw the Spirit of God and heard the voice of the Father. And he stood in the river baptizing the Son – the Word that dwelled among us.
  4. Like John we should expand our understanding of the Word. We have more than answers and issues. We have a story to tell about the One. Jesus himself told Nathanael that he would see great things. That he would see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Now what do you think Nathanael should do after that? He needs to tell that story again and again. Just like us.

So we tell this story of the Word become Flesh over and over again. Not simply because it’s in this book. Not simply because it’s a classic. Not simply because it’s a historical event. Rather we tell it because it is still unfolding and the Word of God has become flesh in our hearing of it today. May God bless us to receive the one who came from the Father and live like His children.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 4 January 2009

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin