Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
In the beginning as the Word…We’re familiar with that majestic and mysterious verse. It may be less familiar that in Hebrew there is no word for “thing.” Instead, all existent beings, objects, every element of the world around us is referred to as a “word”–not an abstract object, but a “word.” The Hebrew word “dabar,” which literally means “word,” is used when we would say “thing” in English.
This world-view recognizes that every being–person, animal, plant, rock or mineral, even every thought or image–every being that is a part of our phenomenal world has a vital energy, a capacity to declare itself and communicate with every other part; and contribute to that reality.
And so it could become an organic whole, reflecting God’s glory and returning that created glory, as blessing, to God.
This is an entirely different world-view than ours. Could anything be further from our rugged individualism, our alienated isolation, our God-forsaken loneliness?
Saint John wrote his Gospel–today’s Gospel–in Greek, not Hebrew, but a very simple Greek, because it was not his mother tongue. He was a Jew writing from a Hebrew mentality. So when he says “Word” he has this particular world-view in mind. Even in Greek, “logos”–which John uses to designate “Word”–implies not some isolated item in a dictionary but a communicating discourse, which is much closer to the rich echoes of the Hebrew sense.
And everything that constitutes our phenomenal world branches out from God’s primal, creative Word. And, of course, this Word was with God and the Word was God. God’s “self-disclosure,” God’s “self-expression” is this Word and without him nothing came to be.
“Coming to be” is one way we understand birth–for example, the birth of Jesus which we celebrated in last night’s Gospel. But that Infant is only possible because God is like this: God is self-revealing, self-communicating and, as such, self-giving as mercy and forgiveness, would we only respond. We exist to return to God as a blessing.
The Word made flesh, like one of us, in the midst of our human mess, was not just with us once over two-thousand years ago, but is still with us. That he could be born into time reveals that always, in all circumstances, God seeks us, his creations, to become that blessing returned to the embrace of God.