Imagine. How does one tell a story of Hebrew origin – one that took root and flowered in a speck of Middle Eastern terrain, a tale of a monotheistic god who entered the time and space of human history – to a first century Greek-speaking and thinking world of many gods?
This, I imagine, might have been John the evangelist’s focus when writing, “In the beginning was the Word…”, his mind turning, “Hey, you Greeks, stop me if you’ve heard this one!”
Of course, they had. Word, in the Greek, logos, the animating power of the universe, without which there is nothing, through which all things come to be, was an idea shared by Jewish and Hellenistic cultures.
So far, so good.
Now, imagine a Greek, wedded to a dualistic philosophy of the purity of the spirit realm and the wickedness of the corporeal world, intrigued, hooked by the use of logos; reading along, suddenly arriving at the verse, not having seen it coming, “the Word became flesh,” scandalized, in disgust, throwing the scroll to the dust. The pure logos, the eternal principle of universal order, encased in sordid flesh? Unimaginable!
Yet, like an idea so terrible that, once perceived, clamps unshakably onto the consciousness, impossible to ignore, my imaginary Greek reader retrieves the scroll and, with appalled fascination, reads again, “the Word became flesh,” cringing painfully, “and we have seen glory.” What? Glory? Doxa? Eternal splendor? Divine and invisible majesty that is visible in time and space?
So unimaginable and so wonderful! God’s glory made real in the flesh of Jesus. This, for John, is the Christmas story.
Countless are the ways to articulate what this – God’s glory made real – means. This is what I imagine.
In over 40 years of reading and reflecting on scripture, especially the biblical gospel accounts, I continue to encounter in Jesus one who embodied love and justice unconditional, kindness and fairness, actively, equally shared – without qualification, without reliance on any standard of deserving, merit, or judgment – with all, especially the physically and spiritually poor and oppressed, forgotten and forsaken, lost, least, last, broken in spirit and barren of hope. Here is God’s glory.
Now, imagine this. Whenever the glory of love and justice is born in the womb of human lives, enfleshed, made real and visible to all in our intentions and actions, words and deeds, then we are the Christmas story.