When last we saw baby Jesus, last night, he was in a manger wrapped in bands of cloth. I hope Jesus will forgive me for suggesting that we had done the wrapping—mummifying Jesus from head to toe to get this baby under control. But we know that there is NOTHING under heaven or on Earth that will keep this baby wrapped up. WORD: Only God-the-Father, Abba—seems to be able to motivate THIS CHILD, who (after all) is here to do God’s will, and to be God-with-us.
John’s gospel, which was written about a generation later than the other gospels, grappled with the new reality born into our world on Christmas. So John didn’t mention dreams or angels or shepherds or Mary and Joseph, or even Bethlehem. John put this day, today, into a whole new category when he wrote today’s gospel lesson. And John’s affirmation of who the baby Jesus is, turns out, is theologically brilliant:
“In the beginning was the Word,” John said.
Remember how the Book of Genesis begins? The very first book in the Bible, Genesis, starts “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” THIS is the beginning that John was talking about. Before the beginning, before all time and before anything that is WAS. Then BANG; God spoke his Word and all heaven broke loose.
John then went on to make the case that the baby whose birth we observed last night and celebrate today, this little infant IS THAT VERY WORD that was in existence before creation. If this is too much cosmology for you on Christmas morning, too much physics, I sympathize.
Here is an image for you: this baby, Christ Jesus, is the tuning fork by which we recognize and calibrate our connection to God. Christ Jesus is the specification, the plan; is and was and always has been and always will be. All tuned up, since before time, just waiting to be spoken.
This is why we Christians believe that the ultimate revelation of God to us is not the Bible (as useful for salvation as that book is). Instead, we Christians believe that God’s ultimate revelation to us is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. So if you want to understand God and God’s love for us, read this life, and synchronize your life with his.
John then said,
“And the Word was with God, and was God,
The same was in the beginning with God.”
There you have it. From the very earliest days of the church, we Christians have understood and acknowledged that Jesus is divine, fully God. Today we have trouble recognizing Jesus’ divinity, some today think that Jesus was just a great man who got things right. But early on Jesus’ humanity was what was in question. We have pretty much stopped arguing about HOW this could be. We have come to accept that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, but all that came later.
Today, though, Jesus is still in the manger. But what John asserted next is truly mind-boggling. John said that Jesus is no Jesus-come-lately even in the instant when he was born or even conceived. Instead, John proclaims, as we do today, that Christ Jesus had been around as long as God, since before creation, since before there was time. And, John added,
“Without [Jesus] was not anything made that was made.
In him was life, and his life is the light of man.”
In other words, Christ Jesus was not only present at creation, this baby is somehow creator of all that is. This baby is responsible for each of us being here. This baby is responsible for the very life-spark that animates us.
Carrying John’s point to the logical conclusion, if Christ Jesus is the animating force that sustains creation, then Christ Jesus, this baby, is present in each of us. Christ Jesus is the very Spirit that connects us: The Jesus in me says “Merry Christmas” to the Jesus in you—we owe our very life force to this baby. (Quick; unwrap him!)
Once John has set the stage THIS WAY, introducing the Baby Jesus to us, John did indeed unwrap Jesus and take him out of the manger. John said,
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
For all of you who are worried that the truth seems to have become irrelevant, that facts are whatever we believe them to be, THIS DAY means that ultimate truth and humanity are forever intertwined: God was born among us. We cannot reject the Word of God any more than we can reject our own creation. Word id WORD, God’s WORD. The ultimate fact is part of human history now; no erasing any FACT because of THAT FACT.
I’ve noticed, by the way that the hip hop culture and prison culture today both use the word “Word” as a synonym for agreement or truth. They say, “Word,” meaning “well said” or “I agree” or “you have spoken truth.” We might say “amen,” a churchy word; those who are not very churched say “Word,” letting us know that even they—especially they—know and recognize Truth when they experience Truth.
I take comfort in Word having been born into our world. I rejoice that we, the created, still invoke the name of Jesus as a synonym for truth. Because:
Word—Truth—became flesh on this day and lived among us. And we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s son, full of grace and truth.