Our Christmas Appeal theme was ‘Moving into the neighbourhood’. In this bible study we look a bit deeper into what this means for us as Christians.
John 1:14 from The Message
The opening of John’s Gospel describes the coming of God into the world as God ‘moving into the neighbourhood’. Such a description evokes images of God moving into your street or even the house next door. It conjures images of community, where God lives among us in real flesh and blood.
This is what the original Greek translation meant when it said that God ‘tabernacled’ among us. The tabernacle, in Judaism, was the place in the Temple where none other than the presence of God dwelled. So, when John says that the Word ‘tabernacled’ among us, he is saying that, in Jesus, none other than God in flesh and blood was right here with us.
The Bible reveals God as a God of relationship. True relationship builds up the other and allows them to flourish to their full potential. Relationships can only flourish when we are in close proximity to each other. This is why God became human and moved into our neighbourhood. God wants intimacy with everyone, regardless of nationality, race, gender or age.
It has been said that expectation is the mother of disappointment or disillusionment. When we have a set idea in our mind and it is not met with reality, we can become confused and upset. This was the response of many people to Jesus. For hundreds of years the Jewish people had been waiting for a messiah figure to liberate them. That desire had become stronger by Jesus’ time when the Romans occupied the region.
Jesus though was not the messiah figure that people expected. Even John the Baptist, who announced the coming of the messiah, became confused. One week he is baptising people, including Jesus, and telling them that he is the one who is to come. The next week John is in prison, full of doubt and asking his disciples to ask if Jesus was really the one they were expecting.
The response of Jesus to John’s question is unequivocal: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
Jesus moves into the neighbourhood to set things right. Our confusion is understood and heard. The lowly are lifted up and the last are first. Transformation is coming for all, from Mozambique to Melbourne, and from the Solomon Islands to Sydney. By coming in the flesh, God shows us what that looks like and how we can be part of it.
What images come to mind when you read about God ‘moving into the neighbourhood’?
When you think of God, do you think of someone ‘up there’, in your heart or in your community? Or do you think of God somewhere else?
It has been said that your image of God creates you. What in your life has shaped the image that you have of God? How does it align, or not align, with the image described in John’s Gospel?
IDEA FOR APPLICATION…
Think about new people who have moved into your neighbourhood recently. Do you know them? If not, introduce yourselves to them and welcome them. Ask them how you can be of help to them in adjusting to the neighbourhood.