Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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 testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

That’s the collect, and the Gospel, John 1:1-18.

It’s officially Christmas now. I included the hymn because it is based on the traditional psalm for the day, 117. We have good tidings all around us, and some very difficult and thick texts. There are so many places to write on this day….the epistle is the passage in Galatians where Paul speaks about the protection and guidance of the law, and I’m always tempted write on the tensions in proto-Christian communities of Jews. It’s my academic bread and butter.

But I want to elaborate more on what E said to my last post. That God comes in the mirror of our expectations to undo our attempts at Empire. As she puts it, “it seems something akin to using black paint to paint a snowstorm.” Rest with that image for a moment, and realize what is being said.

Indeed, as John tells us today, none has ever seen God, comprehended God. It is in Christ, close to the Father’s heart, that God is made known. There is an additional and delicious irony here. As a fellow Yalie wrote recently, there is much attachment to the notion of God as Father. And it is a rich well, a source of living water to the church. But it is necessarily incomplete. As John is trying to explain to us…none has ever seen God. Not by picturing or thinking of God as Father, as Son, as Mother, or spirit. No language, no matter how innovative or traditional can alone show us God.

God is made known in the relationship between God the unbegotten and God the begotten. That One becomes Two which becomes Three. The mere words of explanation just won’t do, though. As Denys Turner puts it, it is not an experience that can be pinned down, or a thought that brings revelation. It is a process of encounter, where one comes to live in the unknowable “darkness of God.”

This new story that God proclaims to us is almost totally unknowable. It is not of human origin, and it is not like anything we have ever heard. It comes in parable, in demonstration, and ultimately, in the cross. You cannot tell someone the Good News like a piece of information. It must happen to them. The relationship that comprises that Good News must begin to enfold them, because it is precisely relationship that expands the unity of God in love to become the Trinity, a God that by it’s very nature creates, gives of itself, and redeems.

The heady discourse of John points us to these truths. But these are not meant to be speeches or diatribes. They are the introduction to an incomprehensibly wondrous story. One that we are invited to live into as it unfolds before us.

A snowstorm, painted in black.

Blessed be the God who calls us to see light and darkness.

Amen.

Advertisements