31 December 2010

John 1:1-18

"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 grqce and truth." (v. 14)


This week we have been reflecting on the theme: the Word made flesh. In terms of Christian theology this means the doctrine of the Incarnation, a subject about which many books have been written. But in terms of liturgy and worship, this theme is brought to a climax for many at that moment in the carol service where this passage is introduced by the words, "St John unfolds the mystery of the Incarnation". 

We know it as the Prologue to John's Gospel and it is a passage of incomparable richness and significance for the Christian faith. Moreover, it's one which is almost impossible to introduce or summarise here in just a few short paragraphs. 

The first few verses alone reveal the depth and range of material which is woven together here: "In the beginning..." takes us right back to Genesis and the Jewish Torah (the Jewish books of the Law); the creative role of the Word (in Greek 'Logos') draws both on Jewish philosophy (Philo and others) and the importance of the Wisdom tradition in Scripture; and the image of light reflects the language of Isaiah and the prophets. 

Other sections introduce John the Baptist ("There was a man sent from God" - verse 6) and the ministry of Jesus ("He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him" - verse 11). 

However, the passage reaches its climax in verse 14: "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of a father's only son..." The rest of John's Gospel will explore the truth of this conviction, in terms of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming to birth of the new community which will bear his name. 

But the Prologue reminds us where we must start, if we are to begin to comprehend the mystery. "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" (verse 18). 

To Ponder

What does it mean for us to see "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6)?

How comfortable are we with the idea of mystery in our faith?

Do we learn more about the life of faith by way of explanation or by embarking on the journey? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

Stephen Wigley is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Wales Synod. He is married to Jenny, a priest in the Church in Wales, and they have two teenage sons, David and Andrew.