In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that has been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the unique One from the Father), full of grace and truth.
So begins the fourth Gospel. In the Johannine Christmas story, there are no shepherds, no wise men, no angels, and no manger. There is no Bethlehem and no Nazareth. There is no census, no king, and no inn. John does describe Jesus’ entrance into the world, but he does this by presenting the Christmas story as a theological narrative. The Gospel of John was the last of the four Gospels to be written, so John was able to assume that his readers had an understanding of Jesus’ earthly origins from Matthew and Luke. This allowed John to start his presentation of the good news (gospel) about Jesus with a theological overview of Jesus’ origins and ministry.
Rather than calling Jesus by His human name, John characterizes Jesus theologically as the eternal logos (Word) who is the Revealer of the Father. John begins his description of Jesus’ origins by describing the Word as the eternal God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the Giver of life, and the Revelation of God in the world (1:1-5). The Word’s coming was announced by a forerunner, John (1:6-8), and yet when He came, His own revelation of Himself was rejected by the world which He created and by His own people (1:9-11). However, even though the Word’s own did not receive Him, the invitation to receive Him is open to all, and those who receive Him become His own (1:12-13).
The rejection of the eternal Word by His own people was powerfully ironic, but John saves the most powerful irony for v. 14, in which he at last describes how it is that the Word came into the world and was manifested. The eternal Word, who is the perfect revelation of the Father’s glory, became flesh and dwelt among us! To either a Gentile or a Jew, this was and remains a mind-boggling concept: the Word became flesh, without ceasing to be God! John completes the prologue to his Gospel by describing how the Word’s incarnate glory was seen by the world, attested by John, and experienced by believers apart from the Law as the Revelation of God (1:14-18).
Babies are helpless and fully dependent, and yet even as that baby in Bethlehem’s manger cried out for His mother’s attention, He was at the same time upholding all things by the Word of His power (see Heb 1:3). Extraordinary, isn’t it? It is good to be reminded at the Christmas season that this Baby whom we celebrate is the Creator of all things. Our God was in that feed trough, the One whom we worship and serve.
Source note: Some of the material in this blog post is copied from Volume 6 of my Interpretive Guide to the Bible.
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