December 25, 2005 - Year B - Christmas Day
1 • 1 In the beginning was the Word.
= = =
• 1.1 In the beginning was the Word. The real beginning is not the creation of the universe. For this beginning of time, space, matter, existence explains nothing yet demands an explanation. The real beginning is beyond time. John does not say that at this beginning “God was” because we know it. He speaks of the Word. We keep this traditional term word, although the term word that John uses says more than “word.” It is both “thought” and “word”, which is the word expressing what one carries in oneself. We ought perhaps translate with: The “Expression” of God. To speak of this Word, or Expression of the Father, or to speak of his Son, is the same thing. In other pages he will be called Splendor (Heb 1:1) and Image (Col 1:15) of the Father. The Son is not part of the Father, or another God since he has nothing that is of himself but all which is the Father’s is also his (Jn 16:15).
John will remind us that no one has ever seen God (v. 18). The Father from whom existence comes and all that exists is without beginning and his springing forth is known only to himself. John tells us here that for him, “being,” is communicating himself, expressing himself, giving himself. God expresses himself in him who is at the same time his Word and his Son and through this uncreated, unique Word, which fully expresses him; he creates a universe that is yet another way of saying what is in God.
This is still not enough to satisfy the need of God to communicate himself. As several texts of the Old Testament have already said (Pro 8:22 and 31, 2 S 7:2-30), God has entered through his Word into the history of humankind. It was he who was “spoken” of in their own way by all who carried the Word, all the prophets of the Bible and those of other religions as well. The Word enlightened all human beings, including those who did not know God; he was the conscience of the upright in every race, in every age. This Word, Son and Expression of the Father came one day to give us the definitive word by means of his own existence in becoming human among us.
Whatever has come to be, found life in him (v. 4). It is a property of life to develop from within until maturity is reached. This growth is to be seen throughout history in all the work of the Word; it is the language of God that develops among humankind. Whether we study the history of our race from its origins, or whether we read the Old Testament, we see how the language of God has been developed among humans. It always was a human language, but this language was inhabited by the Spirit of God, and in a special way within the history of Israel, it was also the word of God. We shall find this living word in him who is the Son-made-human, Jesus, but in a way that disconcerts us. For there is the mystery about the Son: it is true that he is God like the Father, but having received all, he is in a posture of offering: he empties himself so that the Father may exalt and glorify him anew.
A man came, sent by God. Twice in verses 6-8 and 15, John, the author of the Gospel, speaks to us of John the Baptist, precursor of Jesus. The Word has truly identified himself: he has not come with glory; he was introduced by a word which came from himself, but remained human in John’s preaching. It was easy to reject this witness and in fact when he came to his own, to the people of Israel, his own did not receive him.
The Word was made flesh. John uses the word flesh to underline the utter humility of God who, despite being spirit, became a creature with a mortal body. John says: was made, and not: “took the appearance” of a human person, because the Son of God was truly human.
God become human dwelt among us. The root sense of this verb “dwell” in the Bible is: to have one’s tent pitched. So John is pleased to allude to the sacred tent that served as the Hebrews’ sanctuary in the desert: in that tent, God was present beside them (Ex 33:7-11). In reality Jesus, the Son of God become human, is the true Temple of God among people (Jn 2:21), a temple as humble and apparently fragile as the tent in the desert was: nevertheless, in him is the fullness of God. The apostles saw his glory at certain moments of his mortal life (Jn 2:11 and Lk 9:32). They saw his glory in his Passion and Resurrection.
How does the Word save us? John does not speak only of Jesus rescuing us from the abyss of sin; he prefers to speak of Jesus allowing us to attain a status totally unexpected and beyond our reach: he made them children of God. We are made children of God by the very Son of the Father, provided that we believe in his Name, which is in his divine personality.
In him was the fullness of Love and Truth (v. 14). Love (or Grace) and Truth (or Faithfulness) are God’s two main qualities (Ex 34:6-7). These words are repeated as a refrain throughout Psalm 89. John means then that he has recognized the fullness of Jesus’ divinity (Col 2:9).
God has given us the Law. While recounting the sins of Israel, the biblical story foretold the time when there would be no need for a Law engraved in stones or written in books (Jer 31:31). Some day God would change the sinners’ hearts (Ezk 36:26) so that relationships of mutual Love and Faithfulness between God and humankind would begin (Hos 2:21-22). John affirms that the promised time of Love and Truth (of perfect religion) arrived through Jesus Christ.
= = = = = = =
1. The Word as the Expression of GOD (John's Christmas story) leads to a look at etymology. Express from M.L. expressare, freq. of exprimere "represent, describe," lit. "to press out" (perhaps via an intermediary sense of something like "clay that takes form under pressure"), from ex- "out" + pressare "to press, push," from L. primere. The adj. is from L. expressus "clearly presented," pp. of exprimer.
This gives a sense of energy present in the Word that is sometimes overlooked. It is as though it is time for birth and nothing will get in the way of the attempt. Imagine the unexpressible height and breadth and depth of GOD if GOD's Expression is birthed.
2. This Expression of GOD is expansive and expanding. It is large enough to encompass so much more than we are ready to acknowledge as cousin to us, our kith and kin. It is even large enough to include those unacknowledged as friend, much less family. It is of this largess that we are created and we learn our whole life-long to recognize and honor.3. The energy of the Expression of GOD cannot be contained, even in itself. There is an on-going push to reach beyond itself to find itself in all it contacts. And what is not in relation to it? So, all are adopted, decided for, heirs of this pressure to come to be, this Expression of GOD. Enjoy your expression of this expression and your assisting others to express their expression of this expression that, together, a larger expression might be expressed as a new heaven and a new earth.
Sermon Index | wesleyspace Home