We are not allowed long to linger at the manger. Here we are, only the day after Christmas, and we already are beginning to deal with the implications of the birth of Jesus.
The lofty and majestic prologue from the Gospel of John captures the awesome and wondrous meaning of the Incarnation, the birth of God among us. If you were to memorize this passage from Scripture, you would do it as poetry, because that is how it set down. Like all good poetry, John's words paint images and suggest great truths that are difficult to say in ordinary words. Without in any way trying to simplify them or take away from the majesty of this passage, here are three things John says to us.
First, the writer tells us that in Jesus we are meeting God as God truly wants us to see the Creator. We see God in Jesus as a being that wants to communicate, to have conversation, to walk with us, to experience our humanity. God could have chosen to be revealed as light, or solid bronze, or a diamond; instead God chose to reveal the true divine nature as a person, showing us how much God values people, and how much God wants to talk with us, to be in relationship with us.
People who communicate with God are different. They have a whole new dimension to their lives. They are grounded, faithful, welcoming, and seem to have it together. I think of people like retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, when I think of people who communicate with God. The point is they know God through meeting Jesus. He teaches us to talk to God, to be in conversation with the Creator, just as he was. But you know people like that right where you live. If you say your prayers you are one of them!
The second thing John teaches us is that God revealed in Jesus Christ is not going to be obvious to everybody. "He was in the worldâ¦yet the world did not know him" (John 1:10). It baffles me how people who are good and gracious do not find Jesus as a desirable companion, let alone a helpful one. But many do not. There are millions of people who are living daily without any interest in Jesus, even though they have been introduced to him. They may even worship God and honor God in their lives, but Jesus is simply not part of their experience-by choice! So, we are free to choose to relate to God through knowing Jesus Christ; and we are free to ignore him. The knowledge that God offers us a relationship but does not make it non-negotiable is troubling and yet another gift from a generous being who allows us our freedom.
This does not mean we should just let people find Jesus on their own. Many do not know where or how to meet him. We each have the responsibility of introducing him to those whom God sends us in our lives-our family, friends and fellow workers. But we should not expect that our introduction will always be received with joy. That is not our concern; but we do have the obligation to bring our friends to Jesus, as we would want our friends to know any other special friend of ours.
And we learn from John that there is a definite connection between the Creation and revelation. God created the world. Jesus was part of that process, and continues to reveal to us the wonderful works of God in all creation. Some people have built a great barrier between the world and God, and see the world as evil and depraved, deserving nothing more than God's wrath. But this passage of Scripture dignifies all creation by connecting it to God through Jesus. "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being" (John 1:3). We cannot separate ourselves from other creatures and the created order except at our peril. When we do violence to creation, we do violence to the creator.
So, within a few poetic sentences the writer of John's Gospel tells us about the great being with whom we are dealing. He tells us we are dealing with a God profoundly concerned about relationships with God and with each other. We learn that God honors our freedom, and like any gracious being, will not force us into a relationship we do not wish to have. And we learn that all creation is connected in Jesus Christ, the first born, who brought all things into being.
As we leave the manger, let us pause for a moment and think about what it is we were given. Each of us has been given nothing less that the gift of God in our lives, a maker, redeemer, and friend. This is truly good news in which to rejoice.