IS 52:7-10, HEB 1:1-6, JN 1:1-18
Sometimes when we’ve been really busy, and there’s been a flurry of activity, and life seems chaotic, someone will say, “We need to stop and regroup.” It’s their way of saying that we need to slow down and take a look at what’s happening, what we are doing, and what it means. I think that’s what the liturgy for this Christmas Day Eucharist is about.
Christmas Day has a different feel from Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is about the excitement and flurry of activity that takes us to the manger. Today, however, is more quiet, less crowded, and more calm. Today is about slowing down, re-grouping, and taking another look at Christmas. St. John makes us face Christmas without the angels, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, or baby Jesus in a manger. St. John tells a very different Christmas story from the one St. Luke tells. It’s not better than Luke’s, just different. We need both.
Luke tells the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20) with facts, John tells it with poetry. Luke tells it looking from the outside, John tells it looking from the inside. Luke tells us what happened, John wants us to reflect on what it means. Luke describes an event, John describes a way of being. Luke tells a story of particulars – “In those days” and “in that region.” It’s about a particular place, time, and people. John’s story is cosmic – “In the beginning….” It’s a creation story. Luke has us focus on the child Jesus. John asks us to consider what it means for us to “become children of God,” for the Word of God to dwell in our flesh to the same degree it does in Jesus.
I think we hear this story about the Word becoming flesh and living among us and we immediately assume that it is referring to Jesus. I don’t disagree with that. I think John is referring to Jesus, I just don’t think it is exclusive to Jesus, as if Jesus is the only one in whom the Word became flesh. What about you and me? What about the “power to become children of God?” What about the Word becoming flesh in us?
John is saying that the Word of God dwells in us and among us as one of us, that the Word of God is cosmic, and we can’t escape it. It is everywhere. Every time we encounter the Word of God we are encountering the very breath of God, the spirit of God.
The incarnation of God, the embodiment of God in human life, the Word made flesh, is not limited to Jesus. Jesus is the picture, the pattern, the archetype of what the Word become flesh looks like. And we look at that picture so that we can recognize it in ourselves and one another. It is to be our way, our truth, our life. It describes who we are and who we can become.
That God would drop down into my flesh and become one with me is almost too much for me handle. I’d rather go back to the manger and be with the animals and shepherds and wait for the Magi to come and be be less vulnerable. If I take John seriously, God wants to drop down into all those places in my life that I want to drop out of, run away from – those places that have not known love. These are the places often untouched by love. These are the profoundly tender places preciously because they have lived outside of kindness, compassion, warmth, or welcome. These are the places within us that have been wrapped in shame and banished to the furthest shores of our life. We often hate these parts of ourselves, hold them in contempt, and refuse to allow them the light of day.
For John it is about more than just adoring the new born Son of God in a stable. It is about a God who wants to be born in the stable of my life were the cows mew and do other messy things and the rats roam. We do not show these outcast brothers and sisters to anyone, and we thereby deny these parts the healing Christ’s coming can bring. If we do not allow God the be enfleshed, even in our shadow side, then we keep transmitting that shadow side to others.
You and I are the continuation of the Word becoming flesh and living among us. So what might that mean for you today? How will you let God’s Word speak through your life, your flesh? With whom will you share that Word? What will it say to a world waiting to hear good news? What hope might it offer? What new life might that Word engender? What light might it bring to the darkness? What if we regarded and related to others as the Word become flesh?
The question isn’t whether the Word became flesh in you, me, or anyone else. The question is whether we have eyes and hearts to see and trust that the Word has become flesh and is living among us, to let Christmas become a way of being day after day after day, and not simply a story to be told once a year.
And the Word continues to become flesh and live among us.