Sunday

“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)

John 1:1-18 Sunday 1 January 2017

Psalm: Psalm 147


Background

John's Gospel appears to make little reference to Christmas. Itcertainly lacks the wise men and the nervous shepherds. It is,however, essentially to be understood as a Christmas story for itsfocus is on God's glory made real in flesh and blood. John'sChristmas account may be more in tune with Charles Wesley's 'Letearth and heaven combine' (link) than 'In the bleak midwinter'(link) but it is still about incarnation. It is the Gospel in whichGod's glory is wrapped in clay, and how that glory keeps shiningthrough!

The Gospel, the letters of John and the Revelation of John arebelieved to have come out of the community of believers in Ephesus.This is not everyone's view, but I find it helpful and credible.This community arose early in the story of the Church. Paul visitedthem preaching in the synagogue, where the Christians still met,and later in the lecture rooms of Tyrannus (Acts19:9). Some have argued that the text of John was all writtendown much later than the other Gospels. They argue this because itappears more consciously 'theological' and less of an eye-witnessaccount. However, such a view is less commonly supported now.Interestingly the earliest example of any New Testament text isfrom John's Gospel and is on display in John Ryland's Library in Manchester. Given thecontribution of Paul with his lectures and his capacity to wrapGospel words in the language of those with whom he speaks (Acts17:23), it is quite reasonable to suppose these openingsentences of the Gospel are also very early in the Church'shistory. Alongside all the wonderful mystery of the moretraditional Christmas narrative these words were also being spoken:"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and theWord was God" (v. 1).

John seeks more than our intellectual understanding of God'sglory hidden and revealed in Christ. He invites our wonder and ourfaith.

Let earth and heaven combine,
angels and all agree,
to praise in songs divine
the incarnate Deity,
our God contracted to a span,
incomprehensibly made Man.

He laid his glory by,
he wrapped him in our clay;
unmarked by human eye,
the latent Godhead lay;
infant of days he here became,
and bore the mild Immanuel's name.


To Ponder

  • Where do you see the mystery of the incarnation wrapped up inmodern words and ideas?
  • In the Methodist Church today is Covenant Sunday, where we celebrate all thatGod has done for us, and affirm that we give our lives and choicesto God. Where do you see the promise of God in the Covenant madereal in the world?
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