1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word 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 1:1-14 (NRSVUE)
This is the “other Christmas gospel.” It is the one, that in my tradition, we read on Christmas morning. This gospel doesn’t give us angels and shepherds – you’ll find those in Luke. This gospel doesn’t give us King Herod and the Magi you’ll find those in Matthew. John doesn’t have Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus in a manger.
Instead, John goes back to the very beginning, before the beginning of time: “In the beginning was the Word.” It echoes the first words of the book of Genesis, “ In the beginning, God created heaven and Earth.” “In the beginning was the Word.” In the gospel of John, the Christmas message takes us to the foundation of the world to remind us that God spoke the world into being.
John’s gospel calls us to see that God’s love and creative work are the foundation of everything. The Word of God was there, at the beginning. And through the Word of God, there was life. This creative Word of God does not stay outside of time and history, but enters into our time, our history, our world.
The divine becomes human. God takes on human life and loves us even more fully. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. This is incarnation. In-Carne. In the flesh. En-fleshed. God in human flesh. “And the Word of God became flesh and lived among us.”
Imagine for a moment a sculptor in her studio. She has researched and planned and dreamed and sketched. She has created small statues, prototypes, and at last, she is ready to create her magnum opus, the greatest artistic achievement of her lifetime. The statue, once completed, will be exquisite. It will move people to tears of joy, it will soothe broken hearts, it will provoke heroes to acts of valor. Young lovers will bask in its presence and the old will reminisce with joy. And the sculptor gets to work. She creates –a self portrait. A sculpture in her own likeness. Beauty, sorrow, joy, love, empathy, encapsulated in stone. And when she is done, the world receives her work. And the sculptor is glad, for her work is very good.
One night, the sculptor sneaks into the museum, and moves the statue to storage. And she stands in its place. She puts herself there, standing where the statue once was. And then, as the people come to see the grand work of art – thinking that the sculptor is, in fact, the statue. And in her presence they laugh, they weep, they propose marriage, they sketch her. They talk to her as if she can hear them. They tell her how much her artwork means.
And the museum closes, and the sculptor leaves her place, and returns her sculpture to its place in the museum. And the sculptor knows more fully the impact that her art has on the people. When she became the art, she knew her audience more completely, and she loved them even more.
In the beginning, God created the world by speaking us into being. In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh and lived among us. And God the creator became part of the creation and knew us more completely. And loved us even more.
Merry Christmas, camp friends. Happy New Year.