Text: John 1
To Mary’s voice, and that of the angels and the shepherds, we hear the Christmas story through John’s voice.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John, He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light…
And the Word became flesh and lived among us…
Ever had one of those moments when you read something and you think you understand it but when you really stop and think about it you start doubting yourself as to whether you actually know what is being said? Well, John’s Christmas story can be a bit like that. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” You can get lost in just that opening sentence if you’re not careful. And yet, if I had to point to a single text to explain to someone what I think is central to the God story, it would be John 1.
Let me explain by asking you to engage in a quick mental exercise.
Think of a success in your life. One of those times when you were did something and it was good, maybe even very good. And the people around you recognized your success and gave you praise. Now, think of a time in your life where you messed up. You were in charge of something and everything that could go wrong, went wrong. And the people around you wasted no time in criticizing you and pointing out your mistake. Which was easier for you to recall? How often do you think about all the things you have been successful in doing and how often do you think about your mis-steps? Which voice do you listen to most often—the one that reminds you of all the good things you’ve done or the one that pesters you day and night with that one mis-step?
When I was a youth minister, lo these many years ago, I had a very large youth group—80 to 100 kids. Every winter, I would take the youth skiing. And every year I would return from that ski trip and have one parent upset because something hadn’t gone well for their youth. And I would fret over that one youth who wasn’t happy. After one of these trips, as I was fretting over one upset parent and youth, another parent looked at me and said: “You took 80 youth snow skiing. Seventy-nine had an awesome time and returned home happy. How about focusing on that.”
It may seem odd but I think of that when I read John 1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us…the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
Christian tradition has taught us that the Word John is talking about is Jesus. And, indeed, John is talking about Jesus coming into the world. But here’s what Christian tradition hasn’t taught us that I believe is true as well: we are also the Word. Just as Jesus was the incarnation—God in the flesh and living among us—so are we, too, the incarnation of God. In the flesh. Living among us. You are the Word. I am the Word. You are the light. I am the light. You are the beloved. I am the beloved. We are the Word, the light, the beloved. We, too, were in the in beginning. Why is that so hard for us to believe?
It is hard for us to believe because Christian tradition, the “church,” has done such an amazing job telling us that we are a wretched worm and a disgraceful and unredeemable sinner and we have bought it hook, line, and sinker. But John comes along with his Christmas story and invites us to contemplate the question: Why do we believe that we are the worm but not the light? John says we are the light. And if you have trouble believing that, at least you can believe that we are, you are a ray from the light. You, me, us—we are the light that the darkness cannot overcome. We, like Jesus, are the Word. We, like Jesus, are the “God with us” part of this story. We are the light that brings joy to God.
Marianne Williamson, writer and spiritual teacher, said: “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.” When we focus on our mis-steps, when we focus on being that wretched worm, we lose perspective and focus on the one in eighty, we can stay in our darkness and fear our light. But when acknowledge that we are the light, or at the very least strong rays radiating from the Creator, then we celebrate with joy that yes, God is with us still, incarnate in you and me and us. This is John’s Christmas story. To affirm the continuing incarnation of God in the flesh—in you and me and us and in all of humanity—is the strongest possible way, and the most beautiful and profound way, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Word became flesh and lived among us. The Word is always becoming flesh and living among us. Don’t be afraid of your light!!!