I remember pre-seminary, pre-pastor days going to church on Christmas Eve sometimes in the early evening, sometimes late at night. I loved the Christmas music, the decorated church aglow in warm candle light and the sound of hundreds of people wishing each other a Merry Christmas. But the thing I loved most was the gospel story; the story of Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, a guiding star and the birth of a Savior.
One year for some reason rather than go to Christmas Eve worship, we chose to go to Christmas morning worship. We still sang the old favorite Christmas hymns; however, something was not the same... the story had changed. You see, traditionally on Christmas morning we read the Christmas gospel as it comes to us from the gospel writer John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)
What no angels? No shepherds? No star? Going to Christmas morning worship and hearing the Christmas story from John’s perspective, well, I felt incomplete. I mean, it seemed like John doesn’t even know Mary and Joseph’s names.
But what John does know is this: Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1: 14). The fancy word for this is “incarnation.” What it means is God in Jesus became one of us. John knows much more than that. He knows that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) In the very beginning, at the dawn of creation, the Word was there with God — the same Word that comes to us in flesh in Christ Jesus.
After studying John’s gospel I no longer feel incomplete when I hear John’s version of the Christmas story.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never miss a Christmas where I don’t hear or read the Christmas story of angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph. That said, I’ll never miss a Christmas without hearing or reading the story of how Word became flesh and lived among us.
Although we won’t be reading John’s gospel on Christmas Eve, I’d encourage you to read John’s Christmas gospel at home and I offer these questions for reflection: Consider what it means that the Word was with God and the Word was God. Consider what it means to us today in a world that at times seems very dark that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. Finally, what does it mean to have the power to become a child of God?
Christmas peace and blessings,
Pastor Tom Hillertz