Grace and Peace to you from the mystery in whom we live and move, and have our being. The Word Becomes Flesh.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”John 1:1-14
During the time of John, he observed two cultures at odds, one making many references to a Messiah and one not knowing anything of a Messiah. They were cultures with bitterly contested differences. The first Christians were Jews. John lived among the Greeks and sought a similar language in hopes of sharing the good news with the Greeks. He found the one thing they shared: the importance of Word. Word, to the Hebrews, spoke of God as a force with the power to speak. To the Jews, words mattered. So important, that the Old Testament is flowing with Word as the name of God. Word was a power separate from human beings. For concern that references to God would become human-like in use, the word of God was used in place of the name of God.
The Greeks also believed that word was important. For Greeks, word meant reason. In concert, the word of God came through mystery of wisdom, reason, power, and knowledge. It appears this is the motivation for John’s words in Chapter 1. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
The Word Becomes Flesh
In Genesis, Word was something other than human that released a force so great it created the Big Bang and the beginning of consciousness. The Word was present when it exploded from nothingness. In creation it is the force of Spirit saying, matter matters. In John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John is telling the story of Jesus, and it reaches those without an understanding of Hebrew history and culture. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Though born without privilege, the Word was no less powerful, no less wise, and no less reasonable. In the birth of a child, it became matter, like us.
The word brought two cultures the ability to hear in their own understanding. The struggles would continue with Jesus-following Jews and Greeks. But I think it is with all of us today when we don’t come to Word as children. Infants are dependent upon someone else and children are curious with divine doubt.
“Jesus is beyond all usual categories of power because he embodies the gentle, gracious, resilient, demanding power of God. He does not trifle in temples and cities and dynasties, but in the power and truth of the creator God. Jesus turns everything upside down. The ones who ought to know and press to know and pretend to know have things hidden from them. And the ones who do not struggle to collect all the secrets, they have God’s truth easily given to them. So, says Jesus, if you want to know the mysteries, you have been looking in the wrong place, for the little ones are the ones who know.” – Walter Brueggemann
This day of the Messiah was the day of the word becoming flesh. This day says that all things material matter. This mystery was no longer a frightening – it was embodied in innocence, birth in flesh. In brought cosmic light to those awaiting Messiah and those without the language of Messiah. “…and then there was light.” Word.
The Big Bang
The birth of an innocent infant was perhaps as big as The Big Bang. This is how Judy Cannato describes the light in her book, Radical Amazement.
“The light of the soul throws Sparks, can send up flares, build signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire period to display the Lantern of the soul and shadowy times like these to be fierce and to show mercy toward others both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it to be spark throwers to send up flares to be fierce with fire this is what our world so desperately needs from us let us together claim our light so that once again all creation knows its fundamental nature and deepest truth. What a radically amazing invitation we have received.”
When I was Spiritual Director at Calvary Addiction and Recovery Center, I was having a session with a Jewish resident who came regularly to my daily Chapel. I asked her if she was going to attend the Christmas Eve service. She said, “No, I will be in my room lighting the Menorah. I said, “Why don’t you light it in chapel? Do you have a reading you can share?” Surprised, she said, “Sure!”
It was a beautiful service, and we were all stunned and without words. The Word was with us and dwelt among us. Two cultures joining with gratitude for The Word.
This all makes me wonder if we are up for this, a big bang of awakening in our lives. Can we seek, like John, a Word that all people can understand to bring good tidings to all people? A Word that carries so much power and force that it could melt the hardness of our culture? A Word so comforting that it can return to us an innocence of wonder? The Word I speak of gets smothered by the seven deadly sins.
The Word is Love
It is a Word that can only be birthed in humbleness. This might sound trite, but maybe that’s the problem. I’m afraid to appear simple minded to others if I say the ord. This Word is available to all of us but we see it as ineffective, inefficient, and powerless. That Word is love. In my opinion, our modern culture does not see God as Word with the same fervency as the Jews and the Greeks did.
Maybe Christmas has lost what Saint Francis wanted in lighting lights: a celebration of love entering the world. We fight over traditions and philosophies, and it deprives us of the experience of love. It would take an absolute surrender to God as love. After all, the scriptures we read say God is love. Should love replace Word as the name of God for our generation? Maybe that’s a bit provocative. It even seems naughty to me to say we would do well to replace the name God with Love. But we all know it’s true! We’ve witnessed the power of love transform like the big bang. Let’s reflect on love’s power in our lives. We would write our own gospel where God/Love became flesh in our lives.
Like my Jewish friend, and those Christians and agnostics on Christmas Eve together, Love would become flesh and we would dwell among others and they with us.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Henry Rojas, spiritual director at Spirit in the Desert.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.