Today is the third day of the 12 days of Christmas. Liturgically, it is the first Sunday of Christmas.

I want to first say that the Gospel of John is amazing. Sometimes that is all there is to say. This portion of Scripture we just heard is called the prologue of John’s Gospel. Each Gospel has a different flare, a different flavor, as each writer presents, as it were, a different refraction of the divine light, a different dimension of the meaning of Jesus Christ. Luke’s gives us the nativity and is all about being on the journey. Mark’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist and making the path straight. Matthew’s Gospel is centered on the genealogy of Jesus (curiously through Joseph, to trace a line from David), and positions Jesus as both the New Moses, and the light to all the nations, because we also have the story of the non-Jewish wisemen/ astrologers/ kings in Matthew.

Now, John’s Gospel, which is not one of the three synoptic Gospels (so named, because underlying the differences among them, they follow a similar narrative sequence), has portions that are narrative, but it is written in a different manner. First thing to know is that it is written for a small community of religious ascetics (Jews who withdrew from society to live a life they considered more disciplined). The whole of John’s Gospel reads almost like a meditation, interspersed with narrative.

Before it starts telling the Jesus story, the Gospel of John instead begins with what was probably originally a hymn or a song. There is thought that it was a hymn originally to Wisdom or Sophia who was thought to have been present from the time of the created world. It is no accident that John’s Gospel begins the same way as the book of Genesis, “In the Beginning..” (Which really would have resonated to the Jewish hearers, because the name of the book in Hebrew is the first few words, “In the Beginning.”

What the Gospel of John does so eloquently is to put into words what can’t really be adequately named. In the process of doing just that, one is given the perspective of a mystic. The Gospel of John sounds like one written by a mystic. In the synoptics of Matthew and Luke, we get the story of how Jesus comes on the scene. But John tells why Jesus coming to be with us gives us such a connection to God. It tells us the mystical significance of the baby in the manger. This is why in the old Latin rite at Christmas, they used to read the synoptic account of the birth of Jesus at the usual place in the liturgy; and then, after communion was over and before the assembly was dismissed, they read this very prologue to the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John ironically fleshes out the “very God of very God” understanding of Jesus – the old translation of the line of the creed that Jesus was “of one being with the Father.”

Most of this understanding is contained in the Greek word λογος. Although in most translations, λογος gets translated as Word, it can also mean “understanding” or “idea”; it can mean “rationale” or even “rationality”; by extension it means the underlying scheme or structure of the cosmos. You may wonder the “understanding or idea or rationale” of what? This understanding or idea is then the whole deep structure of the universe; in a sense, it is what we know to call God; more specifically God’s design for creation. If we look at the rest of the Gospel, but in particular the Gospel of John, because this is the language of today, then this λογος is an algorithm of love, of light, and of service to the neighbor. This is how the Gospel of John understands God, and more importantly for Christians how the Gospel of John understands who Jesus is: Jesus who points to God so deeply as to be the enfleshment of God, and therefore is our way of understanding God.

If Christ is the λογος, in other words, if the λογος is the whole deep structure of the whole universe enfleshed in Jesus, then it means that we can see in Jesus the clue to absolutely everything: there is nothing that happens in the universe that God cannot redeem. Put another way, we see Jesus, the creative heart in the flesh of one person and architecture of the whole universe, raised from the dead by God, and we understand that God’s business is redeeming the universe, bringing light where there is darkness and making whole what is broken.

You may also wonder why in the world do we read this in Christmas season. Well, Advent starts the liturgical year as we reach for the coming of the incarnation/ the coming of Christ/ the second coming of Christ, and Christmas season is how God as human dwells among us. Although God comes to dwell with us as a baby, at the very same time, God is always and has always been with us, as the Word, the Wisdom, what underlies the BE-ING of everything in the universe. Part of how we know that Jesus was the Messiah, was that he embodied and lived out all the things we know to be of God. As simple as that, Jesus’s life points to a life of love, a life of light, a life of service to others. In the Gospel of John we see that this life of love and service is as close to the heart of God as one can get – to live close to the heart of God is to flourish for ever.

May we all live such a life, all our days—a life of love, a life of light, a life of service to other.