‘In the beginning was the Word’. So begins the gospel according to John, and it is John that is commemorated today: John the apostle, and John the gospel-writer or evangelist — perhaps the same person, perhaps not, but apostle and evangelist commemorated as one today.
In this prologue to the good news of Jesus of Nazareth, the evangelist writes in poetic language and connects the eternal Word of God with this living person, Jesus of Nazareth, whom he had known.
In the beginning was the Word
The universe is something that we observe, and in particular something that scientists observe and try to understand. And one of the things that they observe is that there is something about the universe that tends towards what might be called ‘creativity’. At one level this can be explained as a result of electro-magnetic and nuclear forces acting at infinitesimally small distances or of gravity acting over unimaginably large distances. It is these forces that create galaxies and stars, that cause the creation of the elements within these massive stars and the dispersal of these elements around a galaxy to enable younger stars and planets to be formed. At another level it is the creation of localized negative entropy systems (though there is net gain of entropy in the larger closed system) which enables life to exist here on Earth.
This ‘creativity’ seems to be built in to the universe that we inhabit and observe, and to the scientist this can be described by formulations such as the weak anthropic principle (that if the universe were not pretty much like it is then we wouldn’t exist and so wouldn’t be here to observe that it is like this).
In the biological and social spheres we can observe similar tendencies towards creativity — in biological reproduction, and in the care that we as humans try to take towards the young and to those responsible for them, and towards each other. And we see it in our own attempts at creativity — in the arts and in the sciences.
As Christians we can associate this ‘tendency towards creativity’ with the divine creativity. In John’s gospel, following the lead of Greek philosophers, this creativity is called the Word, (the ‘Logos’ in Greek), and the writer reminds us that everything was made through this creativity, nothing was made without it, and that it was there from the very beginning. This can be compared with the poetry of Genesis, in which it is similarly the word of God that brings the universe into existence.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us
And then, says the evangelist, ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. This creativity, this divine spark, was uniquely focussed in a particular human being, the human being we know as Jesus.
This creativity is revealed in Jesus to be at one with the divine love — love for the creation, love for our fellow creatures, and love for the divine creator. This profound religious truth is revealed to us in the incarnation, in the message of Christmas, and recorded for us by the evangelist, John. And as we struggle towards understanding we can understand too that the creativity and love that is at the heart of our own human existence is also part of that divine creativity, the divine inspiration or inbreathing of the Spirit of God.
We saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth
The glory of God, the glory of creation, is revealed in human love, shown to us in the life and teaching of Jesus who cared about all who suffered, and shown to us today by all who follow that same path.