I hope the past few columns have helped you to look again at Paul, our first theologian, and realize his importance to the books of the New Testament as you continue to dialogue with him.
As this is my Christmas column, I have chosen to write on the second most important theologian in the Christian Bible: John. I have chosen John’s Christmas meditation, John 1:1-14. This is the Gospel you will probably hear at your church’s main Christmas Eve service.
John doesn’t use the story of Bethlehem and the manger and the angels that we find in Luke, or the wise men from the east that we find in Matthew. No, John takes us back to the beginning of creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
The Greek word “logos” that John uses to begin his meditation means so much more than “word,” which is the English translation. To the Hebrew mind, the word of God was equated to wisdom, which was the creative power of God. John is telling us that Jesus was the creator God. Logos was an important word for the Jewish people of the first century.
For the Gentiles, “logos” would have been seen in philosophical terms, describing the design of the universe. It was the divine principle of reason that gave order to the world. Again, they would understand “logos” as the divine name for the creator of the universe. John sets the tone for his Gospel in the first sentence. Jesus was part of the creative force of the universe. “Logos” would have appealed to both the Hebrew and Greek followers in Ephesus.
The spirituality of John’s Gospel is evident from this prologue. John tells us that Jesus was God from the beginning of time. He was sent into the world so that all people could be enlightened through him. The Christmas Gospel concludes with the beautiful sentence, “And the Word [logos] became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
This sentence confirms the belief that Jesus was the incarnate Messiah. The Word came into the world as God with us, leading us back to God. There is no doubt that Jesus was indeed the Messiah sent to bring the world into a loving relationship with the Father.
Let me tell you a bit about the writing of this fourth Gospel. It was probably composed by John, who, with his brother James, was among the first disciples called by Jesus. They were part of the inner circle who were with Jesus in all the events of his earthly ministry. John had outlived his contemporaries. Most of the apostles had suffered martyrdom many years before John wrote his Gospel, probably between 85 and 100 CE. John was in Ephesus, where he had migrated to escape persecution in Jerusalem.
This early church community would have been encouraged by John’s Gospel and strengthened by his words during persecution. They knew that this Jesus whom they professed was indeed the incarnate Word of God sent into the world to bring them eternal life.
Amid the busyness of Christmas, please take time to read this prologue of John as you prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child into our world. Meditate on this passage and sense the encouragement John brought to his followers. Try to visualize the early Christian community gathered in someone’s tiny home in Ephesus, finding great comfort in the words of their leader and companion. Please continue to dialogue with the holy words written for you, and have a blessed Christmas.
All things must come to an end! This is true of this column, as this will be my last. I started it on a six-month trial basis in 2008, and it has lasted over eight and a half years. It has been a challenge to write something each month, and the past two months have been extremely difficult due to medical issues. But mostly it has been a great joy to put together this column, and I am amazed at the response I have received around the diocese. You, the readers, have made it worthwhile. I shall miss the research and the monthly demands. Please continue your dialogue with Scripture.