Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC) Lectionary Reflection All Years, First Sunday After Christmas, Gospel

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

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. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

Reflection on John 1: 1-18: by the Rev John Gibbs

John 1:1-18 is, we all know, a major statement of the movement from Christology to cosmology. It has one eye on Jesus' birth and the other on the creation of all that is: "In the beginning was..." To the cosmic perspective of earliest Christians (I Cor. 8:6), then of the Apostle Paul (above), we now add that of the Fourth Gospel.

Much more is proclaimed by this text than can be expounded on Christmas Day alone. One could, then, preach twice on this text, the first time at the Principal Mass on Christmas, and the second time on the first Sunday after Christmas. This twofold mining of the text might proceed on the basis of this Prologue's basic structure or outline, which we can work out from the text or by comparing the text with various outlines suggested by commentaries.

Whenever we meditate on this text, we do well to observe that its movement is only from Christology to cosmology, and not from cosmology to Christology. If the Fourth Gospel presents Jesus in the form of the Logos or Wisdom of God by which the world was created, it does not move from nature-mysticism to Christ-mysticism.

As C. H. Dodd put it: "We do not start with cosmology, ascending to knowledge of God through His works in creation and the eternal forms behind them. We start with faith in Jesus, which involves the recognition that the meaning which we find in Him is the meaning of the whole universe that, in fact, that which is incarnate in Him is the Logos. Only he who knows God in Jesus Christ, knows what the Logos is, by which the world was made." [The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (CUP, 1953), 285] This evangelist says in effect: "'...let us assume that the cosmos exhibits a divine meaning which constitutes its reality. I will tell you what that meaning is: it was embodied in the life of Jesus, which I will now describe'" [Ibid.] Then the gospel follows with its highly theological story about Jesus.

This movement from Jesus to creation is instructive for us as we go in search of "sacred places." To make that a specifically Christian search, we do not go alone. That is because Jesus was born as one among us, he pitched his tent in our midst, and we cannot forget it. As in Psalm 19, creation does not produce any creed. But because of our creed (Torah, in the psalmist's case) we see the light of the divine Wisdom, which worked in Jesus, now being reflected in the heavens and on earth wherever we go. Creed is reflected and confirmed in creation.

These observations bring us to the threshold of new and vigorous discussions between scientists and theologians. (See bibliographies from MEESC.) In congregations where this can be done, it would be exciting to explore the vibrant rapprochement between science and theology that has sprung up mutually at this end of the second millennium.

The Rev. John Gibbs, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 1998. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC) Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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