How do we begin to understand who was born to us on Christmas Day?
The Nativity by Georges de la Tour
We look through different lenses as we read each Gospel. The Beginning of the Gospel of John describes the birth of Jesus in cosmic terms. He is the “Word made flesh.” He is the one through whom the world was made. He existed with God before the beginning of time. He is one with the Father.
The writer of John’s Gospel speaks in terms of light and darkness, which is why I have included this image of the Nativity by Georges de la Tour, an artist who famously painted subjects illuminated by (often hidden) candles. The painting is a meditation on light and dark. We think about light and dark when we hear the first verses of Genesis, as we will on January 8.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Without light it is impossible to see, so light calls on our sense of seeing. But in the presence of Jesus we have all the light necessary to see the Glory of God. And in calling Jesus the Word of God (Greek: Logos), the text also calls on our sense of hearing. The Word is a metaphor. How close is a word to the speaker of that word? As close as a breath. A word is an expression of the speaker, inseparable from the idea and intention of the speaker. That is how close Jesus is to God. As close as a mother is to her newborn baby.
The beginning of something is very important. From the beginning people who saw Jesus were seeing God with us. That “the Word became flesh” is the most important claim of the Christian faith. The miracle of Christmas is that Jesus reveals in human form who God really is, and that God is with us and for us. Jesus was a baby, and the kisses and snuggles from his mother are part of the life of God. His ordinary life and growing up, are part of the life of God. His loneliness and suffering are a part of the life of God. He washes us in a holy bath, and meets us at the holy table. He is with us in every ordinary moment.
John used poetry, and the image of light and dark, and the philosophical language of Logos, to describe the beginning. Before the moment when God came into the world as a vulnerable infant to live a whole life, just as we do, John tells us that the real beginning was with God in the beginning of time. And with the birth of Jesus we have a new beginning. Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
If a room is dark, how much light do you need to change it into a room with light?
Does a word mean something different depending on how you say it? Try saying the word Love in different ways, using different voices. Does it mean something different than when you say it in your real voice?
What does it mean to be a child of God?
What do we know about God from looking at Jesus?