Today is the third day of Christmas and the celebration of the Feast Day of St John the Evangelist, from whom we receive the Gospel according to John.
John's Gospel is substantially different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It's always been my favorite Gospel because of its theological language — language that is front and center in the opening verses (John 1.1-18):
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. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
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 testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
In these opening words, John lays out for us the Incarnation — God putting on flesh in order to dwell with humanity. In Jesus Christ, God becomes enfleshed to be a light for our lives as a lighthouse guides ships into safe harbor. Through Jesus Christ, light is cast on the more unsavory parts of our lives — our sin becomes known to us, and perhaps others. We know that it’s easier to correct things when we can see what’s going on with them; it’s easier to fix problems when we know precisely what’s wrong. In the same way, it’s easier for us to repent of (to turn from) our sinful behaviors when Christ’s light illuminates them.
Despite the lofty language used to describe Christ throughout the Gospel according to John, one of my favorite verses in the whole of scripture is found in John: “Jesus began to weep” (John 11.35). In this moment, we see a very human Christ. We see Jesus weeping for his beloved friend who had died. He joined the mourners in his own way as they were heartbroken over the passing of their relative and friend. But the story doesn’t stop there. It continues with Jesus raising his friend from the dead.
So today, we continue to celebrate the Christmas season (Christmastide). We celebrate the fact that God became flesh for us so that we might be saved from ourselves. And we celebrate Saint John the Evangelist who gives us a picture of the wholly divine Jesus, the Christ that took part in the creation of everything and who is truly God, but who is also wholly human, who mourns with humanity when life is absolutely difficult. Merry Christmas and Christmastide blessings to you.