We have parallel texts going on between the creation story and the gospel of John. It’s kind of an interesting parallel and I suspect very intentional on John’s part. The author of John no doubt knew the Old Testament writings very well and so echoes the account of all creation, by using “In the beginning…” to start his gospel. The creation story in Genesis doesn’t address Jesus, or The Word, and likewise, John doesn’t refer to all of creation, only Jesus. The combination of the two gives us insight as to Jesus’ presence in all of this.
John is describing Jesus here but in kind of big, ambiguous terms. Rhetorical question here. How many of you have heard Jesus described as the Word like John uses here in verse 1? How many of you have heard Jesus described as the Word but really had no idea what that really meant? You’re in good company.
You’re in good company because many English speakers don’t grasp what message John is conveying here with what The Word is conveying. In English word is, well, a word. We don’t think of a word so much by what it is doing, that is conveying an idea or concept, as we doing thinking of it as what it is. If I use the word pencil, we don’t think so much of a writing instrument using graphite to transfer ideas to another surface such as paper. We think more of the yellow thing we use to write with.
So it is with John’s use of the Word. John wrote with the Greek word logos which directly translates to the English word ‘word’ but means so much more. John is conveying the idea of Jesus in terms of an entity of thought, logic and reason who was with, and is, God from before the beginning of creation. Whoa! That’s a bit much isn’t it? Kind of flowery, up in the air, thinky stuff there John. Thanks a lot.
But that’s how John writes. For western readers it’s a little bit different than we’re used to. All writing creates word pictures in our mind but some writing is less concrete than others. We’re more used to the specific like a graphite containing wooden object used to write words conveying ideas on paper. Instead, John conveys to us the idea of, the concept of, thought, logic, and reason to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
You mean God has a human aspect? Not God the Father but God as Jesus certainly does have a human aspect. That’s the connection that John is making. God has come to us as Jesus. Remember how we say it in the Nicene Creed? “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.” Eternally begotten of the Father – so Jesus was, before time was, so to speak.
So Jesus was, Jesus existed, as God, before time actually began. Cool. Now what?
John goes there too. John brings us another echo from Genesis. It’s almost like John really wants us to make some connections. In the creation story God separated light and darkness. John says that Jesus is light such that darkness cannot overcome it.
I like the light metaphor because light moves from its source outward in concentric circle waves. It’s kind of like when you throw a rock into a still body of water and you see the circles spreading ever outward. The waves in the water move out in all directions and never seem to stop. Light moves in all directions from its source and never seems to stop. It keeps going and going. When you are out in the country and look up into the night sky most of the photons of light from distant stars landing in your eye have been travelling from their source long before this nation was created. For that matter, most of them have been travelling across the cosmos since well before Christ walked the earth.
There’s comfort there, I think. The light of Chris moves out in all directions and continues across space and time forever. It may not be predictable but it is dependable. You know that it will always be there. You can hide from it maybe. You can try to shut it out. The light of Christ is still right there and right now no matter how hard we try to avoid it.
It’s one theory why we celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25. It’s celebrated close to the pagan winter solstice festival that welcomed the return of the sun, or the return of light. And who doesn’t look forward to December 21 or 22 when the time of daylight starts to get longer and longer again. I don’t think anyone really enjoys more darkness than daylight so there’s a feeling of hope when the solstice comes around. Sure, the days are dark now but the light is coming!
That’s what we wait for in Advent. That’s what we hope for in Advent. The everpresent and everlasting light of Christ to fill our lives and guide our way. The days may seem dark now, but the light is coming! The light of Christ coming to light our path.