In March of 1995, singer-songwriter Joan Osborn released her recording of the song One of Us, a song that deals with the question of God and faith. The lyrics to the chorus sang…
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us…
Just a stranger on the bus…
Trying to make His way home.
Back then, in 1995, when I was just a twenty-one year old punk, the song seemed silly. Even though it had a catchy tune, I neither understood the lyrics nor did I care too.*
That, of course, was then and this is now. When I listen to this song now, I say to myself, “Thankfully God is one of us!”
As Christians, we believe in the Doctrine of the Incarnation. This doctrine is the confession that God has become flesh in the person of Jesus, born as the child of Joseph and Mary. This means that God has become an actual human being… not “like” or “appearing as” but an actual person vulnerable to the same weaknesses of us, including sin and death.
In this season of Advent, we give our attention to the coming of Jesus Christ who has come and is coming again. This coming, however, is the coming of God. For in Jesus Christ, we encounter God.
The apostle Paul speaks of this doctrine saying, “The Son is the image of the invisible God…” (Col 1:15).
In other words, the invisible God we worship has become visible in Jesus. But there’s more… Paul writes just a few verses later saying, “For God was please to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col 1:19). Everything of who God is has become flesh in Jesus Christ.
The implication is profound. As I have heard said before, the mystery of the Christian faith is not that Jesus is like God but that God is like Jesus. It’s not that God reveals to us Jesus but that Jesus reveals to us God. So we know who God is in Jesus…
…Jesus who was born as a vulnerable baby inside of a barn among all the rancid smells of animal life.
…Jesus who found himself in the desert struggling with the question of whether he could be faithful to his heavenly Father.
…Jesus who loved going to the temple to share in the religious festivities of his faith community yet also became increasingly indignant over what he saw going on in the name of God.
…Jesus who became a vagabond as he embraced the sinners, the lepers, and all the other unwanted diseased ridden and sin-burdened people.
…Jesus whose last words after being crucified were “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”
That is who God is! A slob like one of us… a stranger on a bus… Our Lord and Savior among us!
Death on the cross is not the final act. Jesus conquers sin and death, rising from the grave and eventually ascending to the throne as King! It is the act which offers he promise of new hope. God is no longer someone we must fear as an enemy coming to destroy us, rather God is the one who comes reconciling us through his physical body in the person of Jesus Christ (cf Col 1:21-23). This is the gospel Paul proclaims. This is gospel we have our faith and hope rooted in. That is what Advent is about!
As we sing and hear hymns like Joy To The World, O Holy Night!, and What Child Is This?, remember this gospel. It isn’t just the reason for the season, it is the reason why we have life!
* This post was originally published in Connecting 28 (December 18, 2013), a biweekly publication of the Columbia Church of Christ.