In this Johannine version of the Christmas story this Morning, St. John presents to us an account not from the earthly perspective but from the heavenly reality, as only the eyes of faith can see it. St. John wants to highlight the deity of Jesus Christ, without minimizing His humanity. If the Gospel of St. John has been considered the pearl among the New Testament writings, the Prologue we just heard is the pearl within this Gospel. Indeed, the sacred character of the Prologue has been reflected in the long-standing custom of the Western Church as a benediction over the sick and newly-baptized children; its former place as the final prayer of blessing of the Roman mass. It also took on a magical character when it was used in amulets worn around the neck to protect against sickness. Meditating on St. John’s Prologue, we are dazed with a number of profound mysteries of God: the pre-existence of the Word who is the life and light of men and of the world; the opposition between light and darkness, the seeing of God’s glory, and the power to become God’s children for those who believe, the Word became flesh and dwell among us." (John 1: 14). But, how does this the fact of God becoming one of us convey any meaning if at all in your lives and my life? What does this so-called God’s incarnation bear any significance to all of us and to this contemporary world?
St. John begins his Gospel with the words: “In the beginning…” In doing so, he directly alludes to the creation account in Genesis. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” and “through him all things came to be and without him nothing came to be.” The Greek word John uses for “Word” was logos, which is the reflection of what is in the mind of the speaker. Logos is more than mere letters put together; it is a thought, an idea, and more than that, it is a glimpse into the mind of the author. Logos reveals the reasoning and the reason present in the mind of the speaker. St. John puts the Word on equality with God: “the Word was God.” And the Father speaks the Word, which is the Son. Through his Prologue, St. John has clearly revealed to us that the first creation account in Genesis the prototype of the new and fulfilled creation brought in by God through the Incarnation, God’s sharing of life and love in a unique and definitive way. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. Surely, God becoming human is not an afterthought, an event to make up for original sin and human sinfulness. Incarnation is God’s eternal thought; the original design for all creation. The purpose of Jesus’ life is the fulfillment of God’s eternal longing to become human. If we understand John’s new creation account this way, we wouldn’t perceive God as an angry or vindictive God, demanding the suffering and death of Jesus as a payment for past sin. God is, instead, a gracious God, sharing divine life and love in creation and in the Incarnation - like parents sharing their love in the life of a new child. And evidently, such a view can dramatically change our image of God, our celebration of Christmas and our day-by-day prayer.
The creation account of Genesis also reveals to us that even though man is considered the pinnacle of God’s creation because man is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), man has sinned and in his human flesh has revolved against his Creator. St. Paul describes the works of the flesh as immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry… (Gal 5:19); and even Jesus Himself warns us to pray, because as willing as the spirit may be, the flesh is weak. (Matthew 6:41).
So, when St. John says that the “Word became flesh”, he is telling us that God is reuniting together what was torn asunder. Jesus comes in the flesh, with all of the weaknesses and limitations of human flesh. Not to destroy His creation but to redeem it, not to take us out of this world, but to give to all flesh, His Holy Spirit in this world. In the Word made flesh, there is no separation of man from God or God from man. Jesus is the God/Man. The baby in the manger is God who humbled Himself to dwell in communion with mankind. And He is also mankind who is in full communion with the Father in heaven. In Jesus Christ, God has reconciled and reunited heaven and earth, the spirit and the flesh with each other again. In Christ Jesus, God has established peace on earth, goodwill toward mankind, in all its flesh.
All of this is what John means when he says, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." From our earthly perspective with our human eyes we wonder how this can be possible because the finite is not capable of the infinite. But with God, all things are possible. With God, the finite is capable of the infinite. On Christmas, eternity took on time and space, so you and I who live in time and space may take on eternity. Or as St. Athanasius likes to say it, "God became man so that man could become like God."
My dear brothers and sisters, have you ever felt so joyful, overwhelmed with such an infinite love of God in your life? Like Thomas Merton, a contemporary monk has shared his thoughts with us in his private journal: Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. I am still a member of the human race - and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race! Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them.
On this Christmas day, when we all gather around the Eucharistic table, the body and blood of the Incarnation God once more time become food for our flesh; let us be joyful always, my brothers and sisters for the infinite love God has preserved to us in his only Son Jesus Christ. We human race are not the same any more from this Incarnation event! We are destined to become God’s children and to receive God’s eternal life! Amen.
Dcn. Vincent Đàm Hữu Thư