December 30, 2009

The Whole Package

by Debra Dean Murphy
Second Sunday After Christmas
Ephesians 1:3-19; John 1:1-18

It’s still Christmas. It’s hard to tell that from the culture around us, and maybe even a little hard to tell from this Sunday’s appointed lessons. For a few days we were immersed in the earthiness of the Nativity (barn animals, labor and delivery, a feeding trough for a bed). But this week’s readings have phrases like “before the foundation of the world,” “the mystery of his will,” and “in the beginning was the Word.”

It’s tempting, perhaps, to see a sharp division here. To imagine that the Christmas lections are about the simple, familiar, child-friendly stuff—cradles and crèches and shepherds and angels—and that the “After-Christmas” readings have gone all grown-up and academic on us. Logos? John wants to talk Greek while we’re still singing Away in a Manger?

But these first few verses from the beginning of John’s gospel wrap up our story like the beautiful Christmas present it is: Creation, Incarnation, Redemption are of a piece. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:3-4). The Logos is the agent of creation, and the salvation that this Word-made-flesh brings is the fulfillment of creation. The first Word has, so to speak, the last Word.

As James Alison has pointed out: “The act of creation was revealed for what it really is: the bringing to existence and the making possible of a human living together which does not know death; and Jesus was in on this from the beginning. Such is our world that God could only be properly perceived as Creator by means of the overcoming of death.”

And for those who will share in the Eucharist this Sunday, we will, literally, taste this life-giving reality—nothing abstract or academic about it. We will hold the Logos in our hands, taste him on our tongues. Word. Flesh. Light. Life. The incarnated One creating and ever redeeming us his body, we who have “heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and have believed in him” (Eph. 1:13).

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