In the beginning ...

Short sermon preached at 08.30 on Christmas Day 2015, at St James, Colwall

John 1.1-14

I wasn’t at the midnight service and so didn’t hear Luke’s story about shepherds in the fields, a story takes me back to childhood and the thrill of early Christmases. What we have heard this morning is the BCP reading from John’s gospel. There are no shepherds nor angels, let alone a manger and a baby born to a young girl. Our reading is far more dramatic, much more grand. Our perspective, the viewpoint from which we are introduced to John’s gospel, is the perspective of God, a viewpoint from outside and before the creation of the universe. This is a drama presented from beyond outermost space, from beyond the most distant galaxy, from before the beginning of space-time. The writer’s imagination trembles with a sense of what God alone might see or imagine – Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (the language in which he wrote), in principio erat Verbum (as the founders of this church would have heard it), in the beginning …

Even the special effects of the latest Star Wars film could not capture this. Before the Big Bang, before our little earth was formed around its local star, billions of years before our world existed – there – then (whatever those words mean in such a context) was the Word of God. The gospel writer does not tell us a story about Bethlehem: but, like the other gospel writers, he too wants to tell us something extraordinary. And here, in this introduction to his gospel, he sets the scene, echoing in v.1 the opening of the book Genesis – “in the beginning.” And at the last verse of our reading (v.14) he tells us in one simple, extraordinary phrase – a one-liner to beat all one-liners – the heart of the gospel message. “And the Word became flesh.” Flesh of our flesh, more intimate than the flesh of our mothers’ bodies from which we emerged, more intimate than the flesh of a lover. This unimaginably grand, pre-existing, greater-than-cosmic being became our flesh – your flesh, my flesh. This is not even, as some Christmas carols suggest, “God in Man made manifest,” nor even “God in human form,” but God and our fleshly humanity joined so that you cannot see the joins. I’ve said before in this church that I think our fellow Christians in the Eastern churches have it: they even have a word for it. They call it theosis which means something like be-coming divine. Because the Word became flesh, we fleshly beings become God. Ordinary you and I – we become God because the Word became flesh. That is our glory and our destiny. And that is why we are commanded to love one another, even our enemies. That is how much it matters that we love one another, for we all have that godly destiny – because the Word became flesh.  Happy Christmas!