Each of the four gospels begins in a way that introduces the author’s context for telling the story of Jesus. The beginning of each Gospel is a narrative of Jesus origin. The earliest of the Gospels is Mark who begins with John the Baptist at the Jordan River, and Jesus beginning his ministry with baptism and a time of discernment in the wilderness.
In Matthew and Luke we have the more familiar birth narratives – though the details and emphasis is different in each.
And for the Sunday after Christmas the gospel passage is the prologue of the Gospel of John… estimated to have been written some 60 or more years after the Jesus ministry death and resurrection.
For John the beginning of Jesus participation in the saving acts of God began not at his baptism, nor even at his birth. John affirms that Jesus was always part of Gods intention and plan. John did not see Jesus as a plan B, as something new when the old covenant didn’t seem to be working, nor even – if you will forgive the pun- as a Hail Mary play. John describes Jesus as present in and part of the creation itself.
So why was it so many years after the forefathers of Judaism – Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, the law, and the prophets – that it was the fullness of time for Jesus to take on our humanity and appear in flesh on the earth? I suspect it is evidence of the slow evolution of spirituality of humanity.
It was Confucius who said “when the student is ready the teacher will appear”. It took that long for humanity to come to a point where some were ready to hear the radical word that God’s power in not about human politics or human power – nor military and economic might. This was and is a radical thought that the power God wields and wants us to wield is the power of compassion, forgiveness, generosity and love.
And the slowness with which humanity has been able to learn and follow that radical directive is still shown in the centuries we have struggled to internalize it individually, let alone as the institutional church, and to live it into the fullness of being.
In every age and era there have been a few who, like St Francis, hear and respond by living out the teachings of Jesus in extraordinary ways. Yet they seem few and far between. Still John proclaims that to ALL who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives power to more fully become children of God.
John ends his prologue saying “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.”
Is that “son full of grace and truth” the one whom we recognize in the Gospels? If so, what is our role or response? The author of the Gospel of John indicates our role is to discern who this Jesus is for us, and whether we are willing to follow on this new path of how to live. A path which we in the Episcopal Church are describing as the way of love.
What is asked of us who choose to follow this path is not love merely as emotion, but love that rooted in compassion, is acted out and lived day to day, and bearing the fruits of righteousness that comes from living as God would have us live. This kind of love is seen in action in Jesus life, and teaching; and seen in Jesus willingness to continue to say yes to the way of love even when it was opposed by those who primarily valued the power of might, wealth, success and influence, rather than love, grace and truth. Love that persevered even when it threatened Jesus own liberty and life.
It is no wonder that John’s prologue of the Gospel is used as a counter- point to the birth narratives of Christmas Day for it leads us into life – Jesus life and ours It leads us to places where the way of love is needed and where it can transform lives and help recreate our corner of creation to more resemble what God would have us and all the beloved creation to be.