Sometimes when my wife, Cyndy, and I have been really busy, and there’s been a flurry of activity, and life seems chaotic, she’ll say to me, “We need to stop and regroup.” It’s her way of saying that we need to slow down and take a look at what’s happening, what we are doing, and what it means. I think that’s what today, Christmas Day, is about.
Christmas Day has a different feel from Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is about the excitement and flurry of activity that takes us to the manger. Today, however, is more quiet, less crowded, and more calm. Today is about slowing down, re-grouping, and taking another look at Christmas. St. John makes us face Christmas without the angels, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, or baby Jesus in a manger.
St. John tells a very different Christmas story from the one St. Luke tells. It’s not better than Luke’s, just different. We need both.
Luke tells the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20) with facts, John tells it with poetry. Luke tells it looking from the outside, John tells it looking from the inside. Luke tells us what happened, John wants us to reflect on what it means. Luke describes an event, John describes a way of being. Luke tells a story of particulars – “In those days” and “in that region.” It’s about a particular place, time, and people. John’s story is cosmic – “In the beginning….” It’s a creation story. Luke has us focus on the child Jesus. John asks us to consider what it means for us to “become children of God,” for the Word of God to dwell in our flesh to the same degree it does in Jesus.
I think we hear this story about the Word becoming flesh and living among us and we immediately assume that it is referring to Jesus. I don’t disagree with that. I think John is referring to Jesus, I just don’t think it is exclusive to Jesus, as if Jesus is the only one in whom the Word became flesh. What about you and me? What about the “power to become children of God”? What about the Word becoming flesh in us?
John is saying that the Word of God dwells in us and among us as one of us, that the Word of God is cosmic, and we can’t escape it. It is everywhere. Every time we encounter the Word of God we are encountering the very breath of God, the spirit of God.
Try this. Hold your breath and say, “Merry Christmas.” What happened? You can’t do it, can you? If you are going to speak a word you have to breath. When God spoke the Word into flesh God breathed God’s spirit into our lives and into this world. That means every time we know beauty, experience generosity, offer mercy, act with wisdom, live with hope, feel ourselves reborn and recreated, the Word, in that moment, is once again becoming flesh. The Word has become flesh in your life and my life.
The incarnation of God, the embodiment of God in human life, the Word made flesh, is not limited to Jesus. Jesus is the picture, the pattern, the archetype of what the Word become flesh looks like. And we look at that picture so that we can recognize it in ourselves and one another. It is to be our way, our truth, our life. It describes who we are and who we can become.
You and I are the continuation of the Word becoming flesh and living among us. So what might that mean for you today? How will you let God’s Word speak through your life, your flesh? With whom will you share that Word? What will it say to a world waiting to hear good news? What hope might it offer? What new life might that Word engender? What light might it bring to the darkness? What if we regarded and related to others as the Word become flesh?
The question isn’t whether the Word became flesh in you, me, or anyone else. The question is whether we have eyes and hearts to see and trust that the Word has become flesh and is living among us, to let Christmas become a way of being day after day after day, and not simply a story to be told once a year.
And the Word continues to become flesh and live among us.