5 January 2014

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 grace and truth.” (v. 14)


This is the second time we have read the prologue to John's Gospel this Christmas season. On Christmas morning we may have heard no stories of shepherds, angels and mangers, but John's resonant words about the meaning of incarnation. We read it again today as we celebrate the epiphany to emphasise the revelation of the true light to the dark world.

John begins the good news with an echo of the creation narrative: "In the beginning …" (Genesis 1:1) to emphasise that God is revealed in both creation and redemption. In Greek John describes Jesus as 'logos', which means not only the spoken Word of God which creates, but also the underlying logic of the structure of the created order, which makes it intelligible to humans. This was a concept central to Stoic philosophy and developed by Philo, who combined it with Hebrew Scriptures. But John is not engaged with metaphysical speculation, but with the reality of God's breaking in to human history.

There are all kinds of darkness - poverty, oppression, brutality, war and corruption, and for the individual depression, loneliness, confusion, grief, helplessness and hopelessness. And yet none of this darkness is able to overcome the true light, the light that is the life force of the world itself. That light is embodied (literally 'enfleshed'), in the person of Jesus Christ. God puts skin on those intangible divine qualities of light, truth, grace and glory.

For John, Jesus Christ is the primary revelation of God: he not only speaks the word of God, he is the Word of God; he not only speaks the truth, he is the truth; he not only does the work of God, he is God. The implication of this is that God is intimately involved in our physical existence. Our material bodies matter because God has blessed them with the presence of Jesus Christ. John's message is that God is not far away, but shares in every human experience. If we are bearing unbearable loss or suffering, God is in our agony. If nations are imprisoned in conflict and confusion, God is embedded with us in that human predicament. There is no darkness, not even the darkness of death, in which God is not intimately engaged.

To Ponder

  • What kinds of 'darkness' have you experienced? Have you found God's light to be present even then? How has it been revealed?
  • The juxtaposition of light and darkness offers a decisive choice: do we wish to live in the brightness of God's light, or to remain in the darkness? How do we choose light?
  • Almost everybody has a word or a gift for bringing to life. What is your word? Hospitality? Generosity? Patience? How do you make your word flesh in your own life?

Bible notes author

The Revd Anna Bishop

Anna Bishop is a wife, mother and Methodist presbyter. She is currently without appointment while her two small children teach her a spirituality of interruption! She is living in the Salisbury circuit, where she leads Baby-interrupted Bible Study and Little Blessings, a service of worship for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their carers.