WORD MADE FLESH
In May 1996, the Hale-Bopp comet burst through the clouds and into the Northern Celestial Hemisphere and the newly born Internet was awash with excitement. This was for good reason: it was a rare occurrence indeed for such a spectacular sight to be visible to the naked eye. Normally, telescopes are required to view a comet. But Hale-Bopp was different. It astounded astronomers and stargazers alike as this flying ball of dust and ice was bright enough to be seen by anyone, even those living in heavily populated cities.
The prophet Isaiah also knows what it’s like to look toward the skies in hopeful expectation. Crying out in the midst of exile, after receiving word after word from the Lord about YHWH’s future plans to save, Isaiah begs the God of Heaven and Earth to act. Perhaps nothing is more painful when God seems distant and when prayers appear to go unheard and unanswered than to know that God’s redemption is not too hard a task for Him. Yet and still, Isaiah prays, in no uncertain terms, for God to do something mighty, something unexpected and awesome. He begs God to crack the sky apart and come down.
Few could have imagined that Isaiah’s prayer would be answered in a manger in Bethlehem. But it is here, in the arms of Mary and Joseph, that God does indeed crack the heavens apart and come down to visit His people in the Word made flesh. The Incarnation is a resounding answer to Isaiah’s plea. No, God will not keep silent. No, God will not abandon His people. Yes, the nations will fall on their knees before the God who saves. And yes, God is for us in Christ Jesus. Indeed, as the author of Hebrews makes clear, “God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2). At Christmastime we join the prophet in looking toward the heavens as we long for our Lord’s return. And as we wait, we delight in the God who speaks.