Second Sunday after Christmas

by Crossings

John 1:1-18
(Second Sunday after Christmas)
Analysis by Michael Hoy,
based on Robert W. Bertram’s “A Christmas Crossing, John 1:1-18,”
Currents in Theology and Mission 8,
No. 6 (December, 1981):335-343.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came is a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.


Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Poor References
The (late) Jesuit liberationist Juan Luis Segundo once claimed that all people have some “referential witnesses” who help to shape their value and meaning in life. [Juan Luis Segundo, S.J., Faith and Ideologies (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1984), 6.] If that is so, what is clearly the case in the opening prologue of John’s Gospel is that none were making much reference to Jesus, at least not any ultimate reference. They did not “know” him, nor did they “accept” him (vs. 10-11). It is not that they were without some guiding reference points, some authorities upon which they relied. Most had Moses; others counted on John. But neither of these authorities would deny the prior authority of “the Word” in Jesus. Both Moses and John knew that their role was, at best, that of a forerunner to one who not simply “became flesh” after them but one who “was in the beginning.” Thus, “his own people” not only misprioritized the ultimate authority for their lives; they misunderstood their own favorite authorities by giving them ultimacy instead, and are now discredited by having those authorities condemn them for their mistake. But we too are in the dock for our own misprioritized witnessing, no matter how “biblical” our authorities may be.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Without the Light of Life
The deeper malady is that all of us with misprioritized authority cannot even imagine that we may somehow be unenlightened. Nevertheless, in the failure to know and accept the authority of Jesus as absolute, we are already without the Light of his Life. We are entrapped in darkness. Moreover, our problem is so severe that we cannot even escape from our darkness–we are unable to value this Light in the Word that became flesh, though still are accountable for our failure. We might want to object to the “unfairness” of this charge; but that only confirms how deep in the dark we really are.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Disinherited
The most critical charge, however, is that our “disowning” the only Son of the Father by failing to recognize his authority as absolute has left us unknown, unaccepted, and disinherited by the Father. Nor is it simply that we are without God. God has, rather, consigned us to “the ruler of this world.” God has walled us up in our unenlightened, disinherited state, such that we are not capable of even imagining this ultimate judgment that is our due.

PROGNOSIS: Vindicated

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Defended by the One Disowned
To be sure, this does not stop Jesus from insisting on his rights to be the one who “was in the beginning with God,” the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth. But that insistence is ultimately for us who are on trial and judged discredited, unenlightened, and disowned. This Jesus places his claim upon us, and invokes incrimination by the very biblical, legal representatives which we consistently sought to value as ultimate. He risks being disowned by one and all and also by God by defending us and thereby allowing himself to be mixed up with our trial and judgment. But he does so also with the affirmation of being “close to the Father’s heart.” And his defensive claim for us, which is also the claim of his Father, gives us “the power to become children of God” (v. 12).

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Having the Light of Life
What Jesus gives, we receive; and we receive by believing “in his name.” Our believing is also our having his name, and all that it entails, as our own. Through his name we have the Light of his Life, and the glory of his grace and truth. We are no longer a people who walk in darkness, but a people who live in the light that enlightens everyone. Imagine the possibilities of these benefits!

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Witnessing to the Light
Reclaimed and renewed by the Light of Christ, we become those who “testify to the light.” Jesus’ authority is authority enough to invigorate us to be his referential witnesses, bearing his good pleasure to have us who have “seen his glory” as his references. Living as his references means that we bring his light to a darkened world; for no soul that is discredited, unenlightened, disinherited, without imagination or hope is so deep in darkness that the light of Christ, to which we testify, cannot overcome and vindicate.


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