On Tuesday we celebrated the Feast of Candlemas which officially marked the end of Epiphany, and as you will see at the top of this letter, we are moving rapidly towards Lent. I read something this week that said at Candlemas we turn from the cradle to the cross. But before we do, we have two Sundays when we are reminded of who Jesus was and who he is. This week we have the reading from the beginning of John’s Gospel, which we would traditionally read at Christmas. However, it is always worth revisiting this beautiful passage and here we are reminded that John’s Gospel begins, not at Jesus’ conception or in the cradle, but at the birth of the whole cosmos.
No angels, swaddling clothes, or sheep enter the scene to turn our attention from the essential point: God, through whom the world was created, the one who gives light to all people, became a human being. God lived among us and died among us. In this one human being, out of all the billions who have lived, God’s own glory shone with life-giving light.
John’s statement, “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” is telling us that Jesus is God’s word and that he is God’s self-expression, God’s thought, or mind. He is the word of God spoken out loud. Jesus doesn’t represent God, he is God.
John describes Jesus as the Word (logos in Greek) and connects us with the story of the creation in Genesis. He tells us that the created order depends on the Word, without whom not even one thing has come into being.
So if this is so, then does this mean that if all people are created by God, aren’t all people God’s children? Well, yes, but not all children reflect well on their parents. Ideally, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. True children of God put God’s love into action. And we do this because we have the example of Jesus.
John’s language is striking. God’s Word becomes not just an idea, a belief, or a myth, it is not just a spiritual reality, but flesh. Jesus’ flesh is a reality that means we as fleshly beings are made holy by him.
Throughout history some strains of Christianity have emphasised the spiritual realm at the expense of the material world. Many Christian leaders have dismissed earthly life and the body itself as unimportant, distracting, or even dangerous. This passage, and the whole Gospel of John contradicts this. The Gospel writer stresses that God chose to live a human life in a human body. That body—Jesus’ flesh—is not just God’s side-line, and can’t be denied, or dismissed. It becomes the place of God’s revelation.
The prologue to John makes it clear that God created and loves this material world and the material beings who live in it, and that God took on material form in order to redeem it and us.
God became incarnate in Jesus and made the whole of creation holy. So we too must see the whole of creation as holy. This may not be so easy to see at the moment as we mark 100,000 deaths from Covid in the UK and see no end to this current lockdown.
But we can be confident that anything that we experience, anything that happens to us individually, as a community, nation, or currently as a whole species, is not insignificant to God. We have been loved enough for God to become one of us so that we don’t have to go through anything alone, even the very worst of times.
We have seen much good coming out of the last year and much that has surprised and delighted us as well as much that has scared, disappointed, and grieved us.
Mick and I are huge fans of the TV series, The Repair Shop. In it incredibly skilled craftspeople fix and mend people’s treasured possessions usually items that have real emotional value and that have been passed down through families. I find this is so comforting to watch because we see people with huge skill, being entrusted with people’s damaged and worn out treasures and mending them. It reminds me constantly that nothing is too broken that it can’t be fixed, and this includes people. I know this because God, in Jesus, became a person himself – a real flesh and blood person.
And as we turn towards Lent and then Easter, we know that Jesus not only became a flesh and blood person, but suffered and died in order to fix us, all of us. So we are called not to entrust our treasured possessions but to entrust ourselves to Christ, and we can do this with confidence because we know that he has experienced what we experience. He has taken our human, material lives and through his death and resurrection offered up all of our brokenness and given us back the way in which we can be mended and made whole.
Just like watching The Repair Shop, I find so much comfort in this. I can honestly say that although I may not always recognise it or see it, God is working through his creation all the time, and because of what Jesus did, God is working through us too.
Through Jesus, our ordinary human lives can become places where God’s glory shines. The Word became flesh to bring us all into God’s family. The Word became flesh to help us see every human life as being holy in God’s eyes. Let us pray that, even in these unprecedented times, we may see this too.