John 1:1-14 – Word Creates, Words Create [Or: A Christmas Conversation]
Caitlin Trussell on December 25, 2014 with Augustana Lutheran Church
John 1:1-14 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.
A friend of mine recently preached that the fourth Sunday in Advent is like the last trimester of pregnancy. If that’s the case, then today we are in the first day postpartum – the gift of the baby Jesus has arrived and we’re all a little giddy in our fatigue. And yet the baby is noticeably absent in our gospel reading today.
John begins in the beginning… “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Greek logos, translated as “Word”, can also be translated as “conversation”. “In the beginning was the Conversation, and the Conversation was with God and the Conversation was God.” It’s right here in the sermon that I wish that I had a cup of tea and a chair and an hour with you all. And we could just sit and talk about the relationship between God, Jesus and Spirit as The Conversation.
We could challenge ourselves with what God as The Conversation means about God as Trinity and what it means for us as creatures of this Divine Being who are in conversation with each other. If I believe that God’s holy Conversation within God’s Self birthed all that has come into being (v. 2) then how do I understand myself as both created by God’s Conversation as well as a participant in what God is creating in the world today. And how might you?
I invite you to consider Christmas in the light of The Conversation that creates…that brings things into being…that changes us as we engage with the story and with each other. Even the Christmas story itself can be thought of as a conversation taking place between the four gospels. Matthew covers genealogy, conception by the Holy Spirit and the magi on the move with the star; Mark begins with John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus and the urgency of Jesus’ ministry; and Luke gives us no-room-at-the-inn, singing angels, shepherds on the job and a manger maternity ward complete with the baby Jesus. The four gospels each have a voice in the Christmas story.
The Christmas story assures us that words matter. The words that tell us about a manger, a star, a young couple and a baby are a creation story of sorts for us. This baby was born and then grew up to embark on a three year ministry that shows us how to love, care and serve so that the hope born in the manger really can mean joy to the world.
The power of The Conversation written about in John’s gospel creates life. The new life of Jesus is The Conversation made flesh. John’s gospel spends its precious space telling us about Jesus engaged in all kinds of conversations with all kinds of people. If I as a Jesus follower take The Conversation seriously and believe that Jesus is working in me and through me then what kind of care do I take with myself and what kind of care do I take with you – what kind of manger am I that is able to reveal Christ? If I believe that The Conversation created the universe with words and I am a person of the Word then I also believe that words create real stuff – that the words I use are important. Words create friends, enemies, victims, wars, peace – words create!
Some time ago, I had the opportunity to visit a woman in the hospital – I’ll call her Rose. I had never met Rose and her husband before. We visited for a short time and then Rose told me that she had a feeling that she was not going to get well this time and she would never go home. She then leaned toward me and asked if I had brought communion. And, “no”, I had not brought communion. We spent a few minutes talking about how that might happen and finally we decided that I would come back later that afternoon.
I headed back out there at the designated time with communion, using paper towels to create space for the meal on the bedside stand. Rose and her husband shared a hymnal as they sat next to each other. I read from Romans 8 where we are assured that “neither death, nor life… nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”; we reminded ourselves of Jesus words in Matthew 26 “given and shed for you”; and together we prayed the Lord’s prayer. We shared in the meal of bread and wine.
After the final prayer, I knelt in front of them, held their joined hands with one of my own while I raised the other one in blessing. Rose and I looked into each others eyes as I said, “The Lord Bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.” The next day, when I received the phone call that Rose had died, I realized that hope was birthed by The Conversation being present in communion just as hope is birthed by Jesus in the manger.
In a few minutes we will say the words of the Nicene Creed together. This Creed uses some language that sinks us into God as The Conversation. We will speak the words of “begotten, not made” and “proceeds from”. This language reveals God as The Conversation between Father, Son and Spirit. And, we will also sing “What Child is This?” Reminding us about both the baby and The Conversation made flesh and the ways that the Bible places the gospel writers themselves in conversation with each other.
God is The Conversation – The Conversation who creates the universe; The Conversation who lives as baby in the manger for the sake of the whole world. And as people of The Conversation, as Christmas people, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world.
As Christmas people we are born of The Conversation to serve the world as mangers who reveal Christ; even as we are saved by Christ in the comfort and fearlessness of his grace.
And, as Christmas people, we are like Rose when she held out her hand to receive the bread. We hold Jesus in our hands; while at the same time, in a wild cosmic reversal, we are held in the hands of Jesus.
Merry Christmas indeed!
 Richard Valantasis, Douglas K. Bleyle, and Dennis C. Haugh. The Gospels and Christian Life in History and Practice. (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), 253-255.
 The Nicene Creed full text: http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Nicene_Creed_Evangelical_Lutheran_Worship_.pdf
 Lyrics “What Child is This?” http://www.metrolyrics.com/what-child-is-this-lyrics-christmas-carols.html