Bishop Baron's Advent Reflection: Christmas: St. John's Meaning of Christmas
Your daily Advent reflection...
St. John’s Meaning of Christmas
Alleluia! Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate son of God.
hear at Mass one of the most magnificent passages in the Scriptures,
indeed one of the gems of the Western literary tradition: the prologue
to the Gospel of John. In many ways, the essential meaning of Christmas
is contained in these elegantly crafted lines.
commences: “In the beginning was the Word…” No first century Jew would
have missed the significance of that opening phrase, for the first word
of the Hebrew Scriptures, bereshit, means precisely “beginning.” The
evangelist is signaling that the story he will unfold is the tale of a
new creation, a new beginning. The Word, he tells us, was not only with
God from the beginning, but indeed was God.
entire prologue comes then builds to its climax with the magnificent
phrase, “the Word was made flesh and lived among us.” The gnostic
temptation has tugged at the Church, on and off, for nearly the past two
thousand years. This is the suggestion, common to all forms of
puritanism, that the spiritual is attained through a negation of the
material. But authentic Christianity, inspired by this stunning claim of
St. John, has consistently held off gnosticism, for it knows that the
Word of God took to himself a human nature and thereby elevated all of
matter and made it a sacrament of the divine presence.
Greek phrase behind “lived among us” is literally translated as
“tabernacled among us” or “pitched his tent among us.” No Jew of John’s
time would have missed the wonderful connection implied between Jesus
and the temple. According to the book of Exodus, the Ark of the
Covenant—the embodiment of Yahweh’s presence—was originally housed in a
tent or tabernacle. The evangelist is telling us that now, in the flesh
of Jesus, Yahweh has established his definitive tabernacle among us.
of this sublime theology is John the Evangelist’s great Christmas
sermon. I would invite you to return to it often this Christmas season
in prayer and meditation.