Our Gospel reading today comes from the Fourth Gospel: that account opens with an ancient Christian hymn which reflects on who Jesus Christ is, that he is the supreme means by which God completes the divine self-revealing to human beings. Like all summaries, it is very dense and only states what the author believes: the details of how God is revealed will be set out in the Gospel narrative which follows.
The first words, “In the beginning”, echo the opening of the book of Genesis and tell us that even then, before creation, the Word existed in relationship with God. The central, pivotal point of the passage declares that “the Word was made flesh”: the Prologue, as this hymn is usually known, presents Jesus Christ as the incarnation, the “en-flesh-ment”, of this pre-existent Word. He is light and life to those who accept him and offers the possibility of becoming daughters and sons of God to those who decide to put their faith and trust in his message. But Jesus is not just a messenger: he is the Word. Whatever God is, the Word is: they are so closely identified that Jesus can say that “to have seen me is to have seen the Father”. The Christmas story is thus given a cosmic sweep in the vision of the evangelist we call John.
On this Sunday, the Gospel invites us to reflect on the mystery of the coming of Jesus Christ into our world. In the Jewish scriptures, God created by word, by speaking, as in the first chapter of Genesis. But God also
operated in the world through the female figure of Wisdom in creating and in communicating with human beings. The evangelist refers to this figure by using the masculine term logos (or Word): the “he” who was with God in the beginning looks back to the Word and forward to the person of Jesus.
This deep passage, which we should read as poetry, expresses an advanced understanding of the person of Jesus. It gives the outline of the coming of the Word into the world and the way in which people responded. It holds out to us today the same offer of light, life and becoming children of God. This is a free gift (grace): it is not something that we can earn, we have only to accept it and live by it.
As we approach the end of Christmastide, we might take time to reflect on the past few weeks and what the Christmas story means to us personally. In the thought of the evangelist John, it is all about God reaching out to us in God’s Word: the term “word” suggests communicating, which is what we do when we speak or write to other people. In Jesus, God is inviting us into an intimate relationship: perhaps we might use this reflection to deepen our relationship with God, because that is what faith is all about, in the end.
The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. (see John 1:14)
Look at the words on this sheet: think of how they are a means of communicating, just as the spoken word is. Jesus Christ is God’s word to you personally – what is your response?
The opening words of today’s Gospel, “In the beginning”, recall the first words of the book of Genesis.The masculine term “Word” (logos) refers to the feminine figure Wisdom (Hokmah/Sophia) in the Jewish scriptures.
There is no narrative about the circumstances of Jesus’ conception or birth in the Gospel according to John: the Prologue sets out the evangelist’s understanding of who Jesus is.