Christ in My World and Yours: The Gospel of John

December 24, 2013

I awoke this morning at 2 o’clock thinking about the decision-making meeting with my surgeon at 11. The feelings were not trepidation, but excitement and a teacher’s love for detail. And then I remembered what day it is—Christmas Eve!—and my chosen spiritual discipline for the week, and the absolute necessity of putting even a medical consultation in the context of Christ’s glorious Incarnation.

So today, we turn to the fourth gospel, John’s late-first-century rendering of the person and work of Jesus Christ. John, having believed in Christ now for decades and staking his life upon the claims Jesus made while walking among us, begins with the Logos concept (a very Greek idea) that the Messiah (the central Jewish concept) was made manifest in the flesh. “And the Word became flesh and lived (lit. pitched his tent) among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14). It is worth noting the brilliant juxtaposition of the two ideas: the Greek expressed in the Hebrew, the concept embodied concretely in our experience. John, for all his Logos-talk, announces this gospel is anchored in real life. This gives us permission to do what we have been doing, by asking the question: In what manner has Jesus entered the world, and my world?

What is of interest to me today is what Jesus Christ,  identified as The Word, brought into the world with him. What is it about his personal character, his attributes, that is a particular gift to someone who is experiencing life’s difficulties? These difficulties may be illness, financial calamity, grief, hunger, relational strain, or discouragement — the very stresses that appeared after Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden. For many of us, our world is shaped by these trials. But John says Jesus broke through a barrier and entered our world with something that would overcome it all.

The herald goes forth: Jesus Christ came bringing Life and Light. “What has come into being in him was life (zoe), the life was the light (phos) of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:4f). The world, trending toward death, was confronted with Life (capital L in contrast to biological life), the power of the one eternal, living God, who needs no battery or sun or anything else to keep his energy at infinite supply. Jesus would demonstrate the power of this Life upon his resurrection, showing the world that once the principalities and powers opposed to God were vanquished, nothing could keep him in the grave! Death could not overcome God’s power. Hold onto that thought!

The world tripping around in the darkness has seen a great light in Jesus Christ. Though God’s opponent would like us to believe that all is hopeless, degraded, murderous, and vile, Jesus has shone a light on all that. His light is purifying, heat-producing, and revealing, and a challenge to all that is impure, cold, and deceptive. The power of darkness is not strong enough to extinguish God’s light, and Jesus proved this by moving into our neighborhood, rolling up his sleeves, and getting to work to bring Life, joy, warmth, and purity into our lives.

The application to my situation (and yours, I hope) should be obvious by now, but I will state it with conviction, “joyful and triumphant”: Circumstances are not what they seem. Behind the scene of death and destruction is the Almighty God who desires Life for me, certainly spiritual invigoration and even now also physical endurance. The pressure to believe only in death-outcomes does not come from God. But one can be sure God is at work when one embraces hope, rejects fear of (physical) death, and lives the moment fully and well. I expect to have fun at this meeting with the doctor, because I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by embracing a healing process. Only Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh, can make that happen.

But there’s more, because Jesus also is identified as the light of all people, including me. I can expect that my relationship with him would be characterized by truth-telling, repentance, and integrity. Anything dark can only flee in the overwhelming presence of God’s light. Any voice that tries to speak into my spirit things like “you are not worth all the medical efforts,” or “you won’t be able to withstand the treatments,” or “who do you think you are blogging about this? Nobody wants to hear from you” or “be afraid; be very afraid” is coming straight out of dark corners from a cowering, cowardly, and defeated foe, the enemy of God and therefore not my friend either.

I am not speaking of a mind-over-matter dynamic here. The realities about which I write are not dependent upon my “right thinking,” but represent the Light and Life Jesus has brought to the world objectively, whether I believe them or not. It isn’t your belief in what I am writing that will lift you out of your death-and-darkness place, it is the power of God himself that will do that, and in fact has done. The invitation is merely to receive that great Gift on this special day, and simply trust in the One who came to live in your neighborhood to accompany you on your dangerous journey.

One of my favorite Christmas carols, for its theological depth and wholehearted proclamation, is Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The last verse carries it home:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,
ris’n with healing in his wings.
[Malachi 4:2]
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that [we] no more may die!

Born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.

Hark! The herald angels sing:
“Glory to the newborn King!”

 

 

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4 Responses to “Christ in My World and Yours: The Gospel of John”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    All through this message I kept hearing my favorite verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, #3 and there it is. But did you mean to leave out “Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace”? The Holy Spirit, John and you bring the perfect message for this day for you and for all of us. Praying with you in great anticipation for the unfolding of “good news” and “Good News,” Eleanor

  2. houstonhodges Says:

    Makes you even write kinda Johanninely… but makes me like it anyhow, just like I do the gospel, my fourth preference (!).

  3. Jody Bagno Says:

    Mary, you have found one of the many gifts that Jesus leaves for us along the path of treatment. I remember enjoying, or at least appreciating the complete clarity that nothing mattered more then my relationship with him and with that, he and I could endure whatever was to be faced. It is a gift that stays with you long after you heal as well. Thank you for your beautiful writing. It does matter and we do want to read it. Peace, Jody

  4. Bruce Pope Says:

    A wonderful Christmas gift…thank you dear Mary.

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