I have said this many times before, but I feel compelled to say it again as I offer you this reflection on the Scriptures for Christmas Day; namely, that human language, any human language, is inadequate in any attempt we make to speak of God. We simply do not have the adequate words or the creative imagination to speak of who God or what God does.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews makes this point by telling us that God first spoke to us through the prophets who, like us, were limited by human language. Consequently, the sacred writer maintains that God’s message was partial or fragmentary. In an effort to give us the complete message, God sent the final revelation in the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus. After revealing the Father to us, the Word made flesh returned to the Father and sits enthroned at the right hand of God.
The beginning of the Gospel of St. John continues this theme and develops it even further. The Word was an agent of the creative power of God present before and at the creation of the world, somewhat like the figure of Wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures. John maintains that the Word was not only with God but is God.
This profound statement at the very beginning of the Gospel begins in the very same language with which the Hebrew Testament opens, “In the beginning . . .,” This parallel language is the author’s way of telling us that the coming of the Word into the world is as momentous as was the first creation. Unlike the figure of Wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Word is explicitly identified as divine. The Word is the author of Life, a life that gives light.
The sacred author then goes on to introduce us to another character in God’s plan of salvation – John the Witness. John was given the task to testify to the authenticity of the Word which brings Life and Light to those who place faith in Jesus.
Thus John reveals the true intention of his Gospel. While those who wrote before him attempted to create a record of the days which Jesus spent among us, John’s purpose is entirely different. Over and over again throughout the Gospel, John will assert that those who place their faith in Jesus will be enabled to become children of God. While the synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke tell us of man who walks among the people with healing and compassion, expelling demons and restoring the diseased and maimed bodies of the men and women of Galilee and Jerusalem, John will use those same actions to reveal that these deeds were intended to bring us to faith, to help us to see with the eyes of faith and to come to believe that Jesus was not simply the Messiah, the one about whom Moses wrote, or even the King of Israel; Jesus was God in the flesh, the final revelation of how much God loved us.
While it is true that the babe of Bethlehem was born at a particular time and in a particular place in human history, the marvel is that the child who was born among us can be born again and again in those who believe. The divine Word continues to draw close to those who seek to live lives of sincerity and truth. We, too, can be children on the light. Grace becomes incarnate in those who believe, for the salvation of God is made flesh in us. The tent of God, the dwelling place of God, is pitched wherever salvation is offered, and the ways of evil and death are overturned. All of this takes place right before our very eyes.
Jesus is the source of God’s universal salvation, the reflection of God’s glory, and we are now commissioned to make him known by continuing to see through the eyes of faith, to make the light burn brightly so that the entire world will come to know the God who comes to live among us.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator