A reflection on the propers for Christmas II: Jeremiah 31.7-14, Psalm 147.12-20, Ephesians 1.3-14, John 1:1-18 by The Rev. Sarah Rogers.
‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us’
I love the opening of John’s Gospel, it is probably one of the greatest pieces of religious literature ever written. But, I think we may have over-egged it a little bit in the last week or so, we had it on Christmas Day, then we had it on Thursday and now again today. Well, I suppose the reason it is used so often is because it is an important passage. In those few verses John introduces some key themes and particular words that will recur throughout his Gospel.
Those first few verses set the coming of Jesus in beautiful poetic verse. ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’
For John, Jesus cannot be introduced in terms of time, place and human ancestry, he was there from the beginning, the very beginning, before creation when only God existed and so Jesus is the same as God, he is divine. Jesus is not named until the very end of the prologue, instead, he is simply ‘the Word’.
God used words to create the heavens and earth, plants and animals, ‘God said, let there be light’, and light came into being. The Jews thought that God’s word was alive and active, he only had to say ‘Let there be..’ for things to come into being, his word creates. Then God’s word comes through the prophets, again his word is alive and active. And then, ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ God’s word alive and active and physically present here on earth.
The word was not only pre-existent with God, it was also personal. John emphasises that the ‘Word was God’, he chooses his words very carefully. The Word wasn’t a god which would reduce Jesus to a lesser divinity. Neither was it the God, which would suggest that there was nothing more to God than Jesus. Jesus is divine and yet personal, existing within the unity of the godhead and yet distinct from it, because ‘the Word became flesh’.
God became very present here on earth, sharing in our earthly experience, to bring light into the darkness. And so, we honour the Christ-child cradled in Mary’s arms, his mother comforts and protects him as he comforts and protects us. As the shepherds and Wise-men brought gifts to Jesus, we too bring gifts we bring love, time, talents, commitment; we bring to him our joy and sadness, we seek forgiveness for what we have done wrong, full of intention to lead a more Christ-centred life in the future.
We bring the very best we have to offer, and Christ will honour our gifts because they are brought with love. And, what do we receive in return, we are children of God receive full and free salvation, the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace…and LIFE, everlasting life. Generosity on a divine scale, the more we put God’s gifts to work, the more we receive.
The Hebrew prophets looked forward to God’s light coming in Glory. The light came in the form of a baby, a baby who came to give. He came and walked among us healing the sick, sharing meals with outcasts. He is the light that shows us the way and casts out the darkness.
Ultimately he gave himself, in death on the cross, that we might be saved. Jesus was born into a violent world, where children were murdered because Herod the King was scared of what he had heard of a new king, he was born into a world that 30yrs later would reject him. The Christ child, God with us, that baby born in a stable, the one who walked among us. will one day be rejected and abandoned, crucified on the cross. As the story unfolds, Jesus knows all things, is aware of his pre-existence with the father, and goes to his death serenely in control.
The world tried to extinguish the light, but could not, the darkness could not and has not overcome it. On the third day, the tomb was empty Jesus rose again, the light of God overcame the darkness of humanity though the cross.
Even today, Jesus is still giving, and as Paul points out in his letter to the Ephesians, everything we have in Christ is a gift of God’s grace. One of the most precious gifts we receive is power, the power to become children of God, the power to inherit eternal life. The only condition is that we have to believe in Jesus. It doesn’t matter who we are, young or old, male or female, all we have to do is believe.
The story has its beginnings in a humble stable, but that is just a small part of God’s plan for the cosmos. We are given the power, not for our own sake, but for the sake of all that God wants to accomplish through us. We bring our gifts and worship the Christ-child, but we must continue to use those gifts to the best of our ability as we each play our own small part in bringing to fruition the Kingdom of God.