Becoming of God: a sermon on John 1

by Anna Doherty

Today’s gospel of John, with its opening phrase, “In the beginning…” intentionally references the beginning of Genesis chapter 1.

To be more specific, today’s gospel intentionally references the beginning of all creation.

Today’s gospel describes the re-creative act of God in providing the Word of God for the world.

And that is the thing about today’s reading from John’s gospel that makes it so wonderful,

and so different from the more traditional narratives about the nativity.

We tend to think about the birth of Jesus being a specific event in time and place.

After all, today is Christmas Day and many of us, no doubt, have a lot of celebrations going on today.

We’re pretty aware, today of all days, of the time-bound nature of our human experience.

What’s more, the birth narratives of Jesus in Luke and Matthew’s gospels, are intentionally rooted in time and space.

In Luke’s gospel, we get time-specific references to who was governor at the time of Jesus’ birth, who was emperor,

In both Luke and Matthew, we get geographically specific: Jesus is born in Bethlehem, in the city of David…

In John’s gospel we get none of these specific, time bound references for the Incarnation of God in the World.

And while some might say that John’s gospel lacks the homey, domestic, narrative touches that the other gospels do…

I would say that John’s gospel actually says something incredibly profound about Jesus…

…an aspect of Jesus that we often lose sight of in the more traditional birth narratives.

The Word of God has always been and will always be.

God has always been incarnate, made real in creation, from the moment of the creation itself.

Some biblical scholars believe that the moment when “the light shines in the darkness” is the moment of God’s incarnation in the world.

But I would say that verse 1 of today’s gospel is really the incarnation of God in the world, not the moment of Jesus’ earthly birth.

It is only when we get to verse fourteen, “the word became flesh and dwelt among us,” that we get to the temporal event of Jesus as flesh and blood in the world.

But we have never, ever, in the time before and the time since Jesus’ earthly life, been without the Word of God in creation.

because “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

God has been real in the world since before time itself.

I don’t know about you, but the eternal existence of the Word of God in creation is profoundly comforting.

Oftentimes, when we get to Christmas, we feel a little bit let down by the experience.

Oh, the baby’s born, and yet people still suffer, are still sad and hungry and cold.

Our else we feel great joy in our preparations and during the season of Christmas, and yet, once the presents are open, the special meals eaten,

and the holiday vacation is spent, we go back to our ordinary lives as usual and we sometimes wonder…

…has anything changed? In our lives, in the world?

John’s Gospel says, yes, creation itself is different, because God has always been present in it.

We need only pay attention, look for the presence of God in our midst, in creation, and we will see it.

That’s what the author of John’s gospel means when he says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,

…who were born more of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

We become of God the moment we have the courage and the insight to see God in our midst.

Because God has always been there, beyond earthly flesh, beyond limited human life, beyond even our will always, to see God.

When we open our eyes to the reality of God’s presence, we become instantly, profoundly blessed.

We need only see God to be blessed by God.

When the author of John’s gospel says “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”…

…the author is speaking, in Greek, in the first person plural.

The first person plural, if you remember back to grammar class, is when a speaker references themselves—the first person—

together with others—the third person plural.

And so, in using the first person plural, saying “We have seen his glory,” the author of today’s gospel declares the reality of an entire gathered faith community.

Yes, the individual author has seen God’s glory.

But so has everyone else, such that they can jointly proclaim it to the world.

We see the glory of God all around us, in each other, in who we are and in what we do, and embedded within creation itself.

We can proclaim that glory because we can see it, it is real, we know it to be true, for us and for others.

It is as real as creation itself.

Because the Word of God has always been, and always will be, part of who God is.

For us and for the world.