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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 - no less?"

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 created.

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 "enlightenment".

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 eternal life.

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