Theme: We search and find the Word and the Light
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, as we continue our Christmas celebration, we contemplate the meaning of the incarnation: for us and for the world; may we always welcome the Word of God, the Light of the world into our hearts this season and always, through your Word incarnate, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Hanging lights on a Christmas tree can be most stressful. Some nice person on the Internet has even made a list of Things Not to Say When Hanging Lights on the Christmas Tree. Let me read some of them:
8. “Up a little higher. You can reach it. Go on, try.”
7. “What on earth do you do to these lights when you put them away every year? Tie them in knots?”
6. “You've got the whole thing on the tree upside-down. The electric plug thing should be down here at the bottom, not up at the top.”
5. “I don’t care if you have found another two strings, I’m done!”
4. “You’ve just wound ‘em around and around – I thought we agreed it shouldn’t look like a spiral this year?”
3. “Have you been drinking?’
2. “Where’s the cat?”
And the number one thing not to say when hanging lights on a tree? “If you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all. Don’t just throw them on, like you do the icicles. You’re worse than your father.”
If any of those sound familiar, then you’ll know not what to say as the words are leaving your mouth. Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation, is a time of love, joy, and happiness. It is also a time of frustration, sadness, and anger. It is, perhaps, the most emotional time of the year, not the happiest time of the year. (My apologies to Andy Williams.)
And hopefully, it is a time to ponder just what Jesus’ birth meant. John certainly pondered that when he wrote the prologue to his gospel.
Today we consider the theological meaning of Jesus’ birth. For that is what John is about. John makes us scratch our heads. We stumble over words trying to explain the incarnation. John didn’t even try. John, instead, used poetry. Poetry can explain that for which we cannot explain.
In the beginning was the Word. John purposely begins his gospel to sound just like the beginning of Genesis. When time began, there was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. When time began, the Word existed as God.
The Greek word we translate as “word” is logos. Logos has many meanings depending on which philosophical school one is member of. Logos can mean: an instrument of creation, a means of self-expression, divine wisdom, or the pre-existent Christ. “It denotes that God is a speaking, revealing, and communicating God.” John is weaving together Greek philosophy and Jewish wisdom writings. John assumes the reader knows what this Greek word means and what theological implications that word carries. It is a heavy word. Logos is word with a capital “W.”
This god-given life, the Word, the Logos, Immanuel, Yeshua ben Yoseph, Jesus of Nazareth, was the light of everyone. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not put it out. John’s reference to the light also harkens us back to the first creation story in Genesis. God said, the Word said, “Let there be light; and there was light. . . . And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4) Remember this is before the sun is created. Night and day are created, which also created time, the 24 hour day.
But more importantly, the darkness that was before anything is split. It is divided. Darkness will not prevail over creation. The New Testament makes allusion to light as a metaphor for the proclamation of salvation. John is proclaiming the light that is the salvation for the world.
God sent a man named John, a different John, John the Baptist. He came to testify about the one who is the light so that everyone through the Light will believe. John was not the Light – only a messenger for the light. The true light that shines on us all was coming into the world.
“Part of the evidence of the new age having come in Christ is the presence of light. This positive imagery is especially important in John, where its eschatological meanings are similar to those found in the Qumran documents. (The Qumran documents are more popularly called the Dead Sea Scrolls. And you can see where they were discovered if you come with me in May.) Just as Jesus is the “true light” (John 1:9), the “light of the world” (8:12; 9:5; 12:46; cf. 1 John 1:5–7), so also are believers in him “sons of light” (John 12:36; also Luke 16:8; 1 Thess. 5:5; cf. Eph 5:8, “children of light”; 1QS 1:9; 1QM passim)”.
Ironically, the creator, the Word, came into the world and the people did not recognize him by whom they who owe their very lives. It is a paradox that the creator was not recognized by the creation (or at least most of creation). He went to the people who had a special relationship to God, but they did not want him (or most of them). We, who promise to seek Christ in all persons, also fail to see Christ.
Still, there were people who did accept him and they believed him. To those people he empowered them to become children of God. They were not God’s children through any natural act or desire. They were God’s children through God’s actions.
We were always meant to be God’s children. We just forgot. Even after so many years when Jesus dwelt among us, we still forget. Even so, Jesus never gives up on us. Jesus always brings us reconciliation, forgiveness, and salvation. Jesus’ gift to us on the first Christmas is that we may now have the same relationship with God as Jesus enjoys.
It was John the Baptist who pointed Jesus out to the crowds as the one John was talking about. Again, John (the gospel writer) employs paradox. The one John (the Baptist) was talking about came before John did. He ranks ahead of John because he was before John, even though it is John who has done all the proclaiming, so far. John is setting the stage to fade in the background so Jesus can bring people to God.
John baptizes for a forgiveness of sins. Jesus brings God’s grace. Moses brought the law. Jesus brings the truth.
No one has seen God. But those who have seen Jesus have seen God. When we know Jesus, we know God.
The Word of God is a person. The Word of God is the Bible. In this season, we celebrate the Word made flesh, Jesus, using the Word found in paper and ink (or a computer screen). The Word of God is pointed out by a mad man baptizing in the wilderness. Those with spiritual hunger followed him. Those in charge, those with all the answers, persecuted him and killed him.
We are descendants of those who had that first century spiritual hunger. We know we don’t have all the answers. And so we come here. We study at home and other places. We search for the truth. It is this search that leads us to Jesus. To know Jesus is to know the truth. (Only Jesus makes us hunt for it nonetheless.) It is a lifelong hunt. We find the truth, the Word, not in this life, but only in the next. When we do encounter the Word in the next life, we will recognize him because of what we learned in our hunt.
Where do we find Jesus in this life? We find Jesus in all the people we encounter. We find Jesus in the Eucharist. We find Jesus in the joy of a newborn baby.
We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, thank you for the gift of inquiry, by which we try to figure out our place in the universe and with you its creator; make us always curious truth-seekers, inspired by your Word, Jesus, through whom we pray. Amen.
Text: John 1:1–18 (NRSV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,a and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.b
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,c and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,d full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,e who is close to the Father’s heart,f who has made him known.