And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Plato had a problem. A prior philosopher had presented a puzzle that had brought philosophy to an end. Science had seemed possible, after Parmenides?
Plato solved the problem by discovering the Good God. He had always been there, of course, but Plato bumped into God and was relieved. There could be divine order, a way of reason.
Yet not once, for a single passage, did Plato imagine that God, the divine Word, would reach down to us in any way. How could that be? God was where we should wish to be. God saw what everyone should see: goodness, truth, and beauty. Humans could never ask any being, let alone God, to turn from such a beautiful vision. This would be an unjust request.
Plato had solved the problem of the ideal and the material. Both existed. He could not decide how they could relate. Both were: pure Being and mere becoming, but surely never the two would meet! Yet if the idea and the material could not meet, then the division would leave humankind forever in an awkward situation.
We are animals with eternity in our hearts.
What can we do?
Plato did not know. The best he could imagine was a man coming back from the dead and reporting that God was there, that this God was just, and so there was hope. Nobody had ever managed this feat, but that was Plato’s only hope.
Christmas came and Plato’s problem was resolved. An event Plato never imagined happened. Love motivated God to turn to us. He came and lived our pain. Plato’s pain, the pain of a young man seeing his mentor killed, found an eternal solution. The world order, the tyrants, killed Socrates and drove philosophy underground. They killed Jesus too, but Jesus did not stay underground. He rose and the tyrants trembled.
The power of the world order could not defeat the power of the Creator God when he came. The deeper defeated the shallow. Thanks be to God!This should make us happy, but often it does not. Why? Truth is hard. I am not good and God is. Knowing the truth makes me sad, even crazy with grief, as I see what I have done. This is why love matters: truth came with grace. God knows. He forgives. Mercy and grace are no place in the philosophers, but central to the hope God revealed to us.
We thought our way to an impasse. Plato dreamed his way to a hope. Jesus came and gave us reality: a path to salvation. We are now broken, but God neither pretends we are whole nor damns us immediately. He came and provided us a way forward.
There are few days when some piece of this Truth does not run through my mind. This is Christmas grace meeting truth in joy forever.
Christ is revealed to us.
A Christmas series on John 1: 1-14 (Links will not be active until the piece is published. All active by January 5, 2019).