UPAVON. 2nd Sunday Before Lent, Year B.
Lessons: Col 1.15-20. Jn 1.1-14
That reading from St. John's presentation of the Gospel will no doubt be
familiar to you because it is the reading set for Christmas in the Book of
Common Prayer. It is also used as the final lesson at Carol Services.
At Christmas it is easy to get over-sentimental about lowly cattle sheds
and baby-in-the-manger with angels shepherds and tinsel.
John gives us no such account. He doesn't even mention
Bethlehem and Mary and Joseph. It's as if John knew all about that
already and assumed that his fellow early Christians did too. They probably
did at the time when John put pen to paper.
I was going to say that John brings us down to earth, but in fact the
opposite is true. He lifts our thoughts to heaven.
Imagine yourself hearing about the events at Christmas for the first
time. You are given ONLY the lowly-cattle-shed account of the coming of
Jesus into the world. You would be a singularly naive person if, when the
Christmas parties were over, you did not say. "So what?" and ask yourself
"Who is this child that all the fuss is about? Who is the boy, the man, into
which he grew?" "What makes him unique, and deserving all the attention he
received whilst he walked this earth?" "Who claims to call for our worship -
John sets out to answer such questions.
"In the beginning was the "word" he says. The Greek term he uses is
"Logos" from which we get the words "logic" and "logical". In English,
"Word" need only mean a string of letters which together help to make a
sentence, part of a longer communication or record.
"Logos", which John uses, is defined as "that which embodies a conception
or idea". It is full of the sense of the collecting together of thought,
of sweet reason, of learned culture and rational thought.
In Greek culture it was used to describe the utterances of an oracle, the
pinnacle of wisdom.
John says this Logos was an integral part of God, way back to the
beginning of creation. The Lord gave the Word, He commanded and they were
Then John makes this astonishing claim. "The Word became flesh and dwelt
among us". We get so used to hearing this claim that we can lose the
tremendous significance of it - through usage.
John is saying that all the wisdom, all the rationality, all the cold
logic, all the warm compassion and all the overwhelming love of God is
incorporated into this child, this man, this Jesus of Nazareth.
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us"
That we may be enlightened.
Many and varied are mankind's ideas about who or what he calls "God".
Look around the world today. Most of the world's catastrophes are caused by
mankind's being in the dark as to the nature of forces which control his
behaviour - to his misunderstanding of the nature of God. Man needs
This applies, not only to the primitive savage bowing down to wood and
stone, but also to the man who thinks he has God's approval if he commits
suicide and murders tens, hundreds, three thousand in the process.
It applies, dare we say so, to those whose priorities are the acquisition
of oil and the sale of armaments and Cola.
The Word became flesh to shed light on a more excellent way, a way of
compassion, of forgiveness, of self-sacrifice and the supplying of the
needs of others; of feeding the hungry and releasing the captive. The Word
was made flesh to bring light to those who live in darkness and in the
shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
How appropriate those words are for the situation of the world today. How
needed is that enlightenment.
In ten days' time Lent begins again, and we start to follow the course of
this Jesus of Nazareth on his journey to the Cross. On that journey and on
that Cross he took upon himself all the agonies of mankind that mankind
might be offered release from the fear of death and given the hope of
We have the right, we have the need, to ask again, "Who is this man?"
And John once more gives us the answer. "This is the Word made Flesh that
dwelt amongst us." "He came to his own people, but they rejected him". "But
to all those who accept him, he gave the power to become the children of God
- to share the life of God".
So before we again follow this Christ to the Cross and to his
Resurrection, we are reminded again that this is the Word Made Flesh. In
this Man is all the hard logic, the sweet compassion and the overwhelming
Love of the God who created us and would have us walk in his ways.
May we, during this Lent, catch a glimpse of His Glory and receive from
him a renewal within ourselves of his grace and truth.
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004