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John 1:1 – 5, 9 – 14
The Word was made flesh, and lived among us
In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.
The Word was the true light that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh
or will of man but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh, he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Christmas is one of those ‘Solemnities’ in the liturgical drama of the year that used to weave in and out of linear, working day time. To us it seems odd to be solemn and joyful at the same time. If something joyful occurs to us at a solemn event where we are meant to look serious, we tend to giggle. But today is a solemn feast and at feasts you are meant to laugh not look pie-faced or hide your joy. One ancient author dared to say ‘no one has the right to be sad today.’
When the punch line of a good joke is delivered well, or a long held secret is disclosed or an obvious solution is finally found to an intractable problem some new joy leaps in us and we laugh. Eureka moments have to be verified and tested and they sometimes open more problems than they solve but they are always to be celebrated. The great solemnities of our lives create a supernova burst of joy that disperses but does not disappear.
Like the Big Bang thirteen billion years ago, the moment in which the infinitely concentrated universe exploded and space and time came into existence. Further back than this we cannot see but the radiation energy of that instant of creation is spread evenly throughout the cosmos from the furthest horizon of the expanding universe to the cellular composition of our bodily organs.
The Prologue to St John’s gospel articulates the wonder of the Incarnation, the self-emptying of God into a human being who would grow to full humanity: ‘The Word was made flesh’. The easiest way mentally to deal with this solemn joy is to explain it by the supernatural. Meditators are inclined, however, to be suspicious of the supernatural. We prefer to look deeper into nature and find new laws and truths that reveal the meaning of mysteries.
St John is thought to have been the ‘beloved disciple’. Whatever this means, it suggests a special level of friendship and understanding. In John we see Jesus weeping for the loss of a friend, tired after a journey, angry with people defiling a sacred space. In John too we see the deepest insight into the nature of Jesus as a complete manifestation of the divine. There are no perfect translations between languages. But Christian faith sees Jesus as the complete translation of God into the human: the most challenging and joyful of religious insights.
A merely intellectual approach to the Incarnation quickly becomes anaemic and incorporeal. St John says, however, ‘we knew him.., spoke with him ate with him, touched him, laughed and cried with him’. Mary was held in such esteem because as a mother she above all knew him in the flesh. If we stop there in the written record we risk becoming stuck at the devotional level, imagining the historical Jesus. This should take us further, beyond imaginative knowledge into contemplative, unitive knowledge where we are one with him. Then it is not only that we imagine him being human because we know him in our own humanity. We know his consciousness dispersed throughout our wholeness. Like the energy of the first moment, creation which happened so that the long Advent of the universe, the long preparation might become Christmas and celebrate the marriage of God and humanity.
What is the sacred language of Christianity? The sacred language of Judaism is Hebrew, of Hinduism Sanskrit, of the Muslims Arabic. But what is the sacred language of Christianity? The body.
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