“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
What a big, fat lie.
I’d much rather have someone throw a stick or a stone at me than words. The cuts and bruises from blunt objects heal in a reliable way; the scratch I get today will be gone in a week. The wounds inflicted by words, however – they’re unpredictable. The recovery is long, or impossible. They can re-open without warning, years after we put away the bandaids and Neosporin.
For better or worse, our words have power.
We resemble our Creator in that way; we are, after all, made in God’s image. In the beginning God made the world, not with hammer and nails but with words. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Just like that.
God’s words are powerful, and today we remember the mysterious moment when that Word became flesh.
Matthew and Luke tell us the most familiar Christmas story: a manger and shepherds, scared parents and wise men, swaddling clothes and an overbooked inn. The Gospel of John is different. John doesn’t start in the first century; John goes back to before time was ever recorded.
“In the beginning was the Word…” That creating Word, that life-giving Word – it has always been.
But then came a moment when “the Word became flesh.” God’s all-powerful Word came into the world with an infant cry. That Word grew in body and soul, learned to speak words using human lips and lungs.
What kind of words did the Word say?
A lot; but I’m thinking of one time in particular today (John 8:1-11). A woman was caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. The religious leaders brought her in front of Jesus and dropped her at his feet. “The law says we should stone her,” they say, and they’re right – Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 back that up. “So what should we do?”
Jesus bends down and writes some words in the sand. I imagine those scribes and Pharisees standing around him like circling vultures, tossing stones up and down in expectation. They think they’ve got Jesus cornered in a lose-lose. If he says to let her go, he turns his back on the law. If he says to stone her, he turns his back on this woman.
Then he looks up and tells them, “Alright; whichever one of you is completely without sin, you throw the first stone.”
And one by one by one, they all went away.
When the Word became flesh, his spoken words weren’t used as wound-inflicting sticks and stones. The words of Jesus Christ were like band-aids and Neosporin. They didn’t hurt; they healed.
On this Christmas Day, may that healing Word surround you. May it work within you, deep to the core of your soul, where your oldest wounds are. May the Word chase away all those old, hurtful things life has thrown at you.
And as you are healed, may you be transformed. Every day you will use your God-given, creative power to speak thousands of words. May you use those words not for harm, but for healing.
Because that’s what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh.