John 1:1-18 (NRSV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 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. 15 (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.'") 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 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.
Genesis starts with these words, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." John starts like this, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for God's creating words is Dabar. The Creeks used the word Sophia. John uses the word Logos which goes beyond the earthiness of Dabar and the feminism of Sophia. Logos describes the self-revelation of God which in a very important way transcends all attempts to describe form.
So, for example, in the Old Testament God came in the form of a burning bush, a smoking mountain, a pillar of fire, and as a cloud. Before the time of Jesus, God's incarnation of the Word was the Book of the Covenant. It was kept in an ark and was carried around by a wandering people. David installed the Ark in the Temple and no one but the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement to be in the presence of God.
None of these incarnations of God's Word is good enough for John. John wants us to know about the Word made flesh. It is not a bush, not a cloud, not a pillar of fire, but a human being. God came in human form so that we might see Him face to face. This is much more than Moses or any high priest ever got to see.
Before Jesus, all anyone ever saw were the things that hid God from their eyes. With Jesus, the veil was removed. The full glory was exposed for everyone to see. It was such an unexpected sight that no one could believe it was really happening.
It was hard to believe, but for those who did believe, it was the new tabernacle-the new temple-that sheltered God's presence among us. God was not in a tent or a building this time, instead, God chose to pitch His tent among us through the incarnation of Himself in human form. This is really mind blowing stuff. The God who was from the very beginning and who was the beginning of all things decided to dwell among us, not for a time, but forever.
As I've thought about this, I've come to realize how expansive and great our God is. I've also thought about how we attempt to shrink God into something we can grasp and understand. We humans don't deal with mystery and the unknowable very well. We reduce everything to a comprehensible size and timeframe. Thus the debate between the evolutionists and creationists. Interestingly, it was a Catholic Priest who first proposed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. George Lemaitre, a Belgian priest was an astronomer and physics professor. In 1927, he proposed that the expanding universe might be traced back to a single point of origin called a singularity.
The Franciscan Sister Elia Delio who writes about evolution, physics, neuroscience, and the importance of these for theology describes the beginning like this:
Science would say it appeared like a little quantum size blip on the screen and inflated rapidly like a balloon and since that time, it has been expanding.
The Catholic priest Richard Rohr suggests that every time we read "The Word" in John's prologue to the Gospel that we substitute the word "Blueprint:"
In the beginning was the BLUEPRINT, and the BLUEPRINT was with God, and the BLUEPRINT was God.
Maybe this makes more sense to our 21st century mind. Here's the point, Jesus is not a plan B for God. Jesus is not some sort of problem-solving answer to the issue of sin. This idea of a relationship that God wants to have with us is God's goal from the beginning. God is love and has been love since the beginning of time.
As a pastor and disciple of Jesus Christ-who is the light of the world-I have one agenda and the church should have only one agenda, how to push back the darkness. As a believer in the one who created the universe and all that is, I cannot back away from love. Those who claim Jesus as Lord should never back away from love. Leaders and countries must do what they have to do. As follows of Jesus Christ, we must do what we are called to do.
Author, farmer, poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry says it best:
I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.
Astrophysicists tell us that 95% of the known universe is dark energy and dark matter. It appears to be nothing but empty space. We also know that darkness is not really darkness. What appears like total darkness to the human eye is actually filled with billions of neutrinos which are light. It sounds like the Gospel of John: "A light that shines in the dark, and the dark cannot overcome it." Think about it.