Christmas and Incarnation: Commentary on John’s Prologue

A Reading from the holy Gospel according to John (1:1-18):

The fourth Gospel presents a strikingly different picture of Jesus from that in the synoptics.  In this 1st chapter, you can easily see the allusions to the opening chapter of Genesis:  “in the beginning,” reference to God’s word as a creative power, the creation of light in the darkness and all things, including humans, coming to life through the word.  Where the 1st creation story in Genesis ended with God “resting” and making the Sabbath holy, John 1:17 contrasts the law of Moses, which included the Sabbath, with the “grace and truth” that comes in Jesus.  This prologue, probably based on an earlier hymn, presents us with the story of Jesus as the coming of the divine Word to humanity (P. Perkins’ Reading the New Testament, p. 242).

Historical circumstances attending the composition of John’s Gospel are more complicated than those related to the other Gospels, as most scholars think that the book that we possess is a second, third, fourth or fifth edition of a work that went through stages of development.  The ancient tradition of the church (dating from the late 2nd century) is that the Gospel of John was produced by one of Jesus’ 12 disciples (beloved John), but those who accept this tradition usually think that the attribution applies only to the 1st edition of this Gospel (M.A. Powell, Introducing the New Testament, p. 173).

Distinct Considerations of the Pre-existent and Historical Christ in this Prologue

  1. Word’s role in creation: This is one of the clearest and direct affirmations of Christ’s divine status in the New Testament.  Like Wisdom the Word is both an instrument and an exemplar in creation.  Life and light are both the results of creation and here refer to the saving mission of Christ.
  2. Word’s self-presentation in the world: There is a reaction of the world to Jesus as the light.  “World” has both a positive and negative understanding in John.  But Jesus, in presenting himself to the world, and especially to “his own,” the Jewish people, met ignorance and rejection.
  3. The incarnation: “Made his dwelling” literally means “pitched his tent”.  The Son of God comes as man, born in simple circumstances (which we don’t hear in this Gospel), to save us and bring us home.  That is Christmas (R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 68-70).

From Catholic Update, The Incarnation, by Kenneth R. Overberg, SJ, Dec 2002:

It holds that the whole purpose of creation is for the Incarnation, God’s sharing of life and love in a unique and definitive way.  God becoming human is not an afterthought, an event to make up for original sin and human sinfulness.  Incarnation is God’s first thought, the original design for all creation.  The purpose of Jesus’ life is the fulfillment of God’s eternal longing to become human.

God is not an angry or vindictive God, demanding the suffering and death of Jesus as a payment for past sin.  God is, instead, a gracious God, sharing divine life and love in creation and in the Incarnation (like parents sharing their love in the life of a new child)…emphasis on friendship, intimacy, mutuality, service, faithful love – revealing God’s desire and gift for the full flourishing of humanity, or in other words, salvation.

From Altogether Gift, by Michael Downey:

In Jesus Christ, Love’s Word, we see in a fleshly way the compassion of the Father.  The Hebrew word for a woman’s womb and the word for compassion are related, and both are related to the word for mercy.  Thus, the mother’s intimate, physical relationship with her newborn is the prime image for compassion and, hence, the compassion of God in Christ.

By the Incarnation of the Word, God enters human life, history, the world.  But the Incarnation also makes it possible for us to enter the very life of God.  Through the Incarnation, God became part of our eating and drinking, our sickness, our joy, our delight, our passion, our dying, our death.  But all this is for the purpose of drawing us out of ourselves, away from our own self-preoccupation, self-absorption, self-fixation, so as to participate in the divine life.

From The Holy Longing, by Ronald Rolheiser:

What Jesus wants from us is not admiration, but imitation . . . Yet, Jesus is more than a model to be imitated. No simple imitation is enough. What Jesus wants from us is that we undergo his presence so as to enter into a community of life and celebration with him. Jesus is not a law to be obeyed or a model to be imitated, but a presence to be seized and acted upon… The Spirit of Jesus is the vine, the blood, the pulse and the heart. (p. 74)

“The incarnation is still going on and it is just as real and as radically physical as when Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh, walked the dirt roads of Palestine” (p.76).

“God takes on flesh so that every home becomes a church, every child becomes the Christ-child, and all food and drink become a sacrament.  God’s many faces are now everywhere, in flesh, tempered and turned down, so that our human eyes can see him.  God, in his many-faced face, has become as accessible, and visible, as the nearest water tap” (p. 78).

Scripture uses the expression the ‘Body of Christ’ to mean three things: Jesus, the historical person who walked this earth for thirty-three years; the Eucharist, which is also the physical presence of God among us; and the body of believers, which is also the real presence . . .We are the Body of Christ.  This is not an exaggeration, nor a metaphor . . . The word did not just become flesh and dwell among us – it became flesh and continues to dwell among us” (p. 79-80).

“The God who has become incarnate in human flesh is found, first and foremost, not in meditation and monasteries, albeit God is found there, but in our homes” (p.100).

This is the core of Christian spirituality . . .God’s presence in the world today depends very much upon us.  We have to keep God present in the world in the same way as Jesus did . . .  ‘The community mediates Christ to the world.  The word that he spoke is not heard in our contemporary world unless it is proclaimed by the community . . .As God once acted through Christ, so he now acts through those who are conformed to the image of his Son” (p.80).

  • How are we to respond to this gift of God’s own self in human flesh?
  • There is a saying, “I give you my word.” What is the power of our words?  Of course, the power of Jesus being The Word is a whole, other level.  But what is your word?  What does that mean for you?
  • How does the light shine in the darkness within your own life?

2 responses

  1. Thank you for these beautiful words and understanding of our amazing loving God! Helen

    Sent from my iPhone


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