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 were made through him, and without him was not anything that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkenss has not overcome it.JN 1:1-5
Perhaps you heard this reading at mass on Christmas day? It is the Prologue or the “words that come before” of John the Evangelist’s gospel. It’s a bit puzzling to listen to, and for some, it is not as interesting as the other gospel readings from the Christmas masses. Those readings may fill our minds with images, smells and sounds of angels, stars, and shepherds, stables and hay, a young woman about to give birth, and her protective, solicitous husband who struggles to find a suitable place for the Child to be born. Compared to those, this reading may have seemed dull and you might have been inclined to drift off and start thinking about the lovely gifts you’d be opening or the rich Christmas dinner you would be enjoying later in the day.
If you did zone out at mass during the gospel reading, take a minute now and ponder what the Evangelist writes about God.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. God’s Word is so utterly complete and powerful, that is a person. It is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son. Just as our words are a way for us to express ourselves and communicate ourselves to others, God’s Word is His self-expression. It is His means of communicating Himself. But for God, self-communication is total, and effective. His Word is not only a person, the Son, and as John says, “in him was life.”
These are difficult concepts. Indeed our language is utterly insufficient to speak about God, because God cannot be contained or restrained by human words and ideas. If our words and ideas could capture the essence of God, He wouldn’t be a very impressive God! But still, God wants us to know Him. So we try to speak of Him. This is John’s attempt. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, John tells us that the Word is the Son. He was with the Father from all time. He was the Word that God spoke when He created. He is life and light for all mankind.
In fact, the self-communicating Word of God is the whole purpose of Christmas. God who is all glory, goodness, power, majesty, life etc. decided to become a tiny, poor, baby, born among animals, in a stable just outside of a little, sleepy, ancient town. God did this so as to communicate Himself, his Word, to us, so that we could approach him, gaze on him, and contemplate him, without fear. So do not be afraid, but rejoice, for, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!