The prologue of the Gospel of John is an extremely rich text. Along with the other readings of today from Isaiah and Hebrews which complement it wonderfully, one can get an insight into the meaning of the mystery of the Incarnation
Unlike Matthew and Luke who begin their Gospels with stories of the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of John begins with the pre-existent WORD and the relationship of the word to the world. It is Word which is God and also an incarnate word, a word made flesh. Thus the Prologue is concerned with the sphere of God, the eternal sphere and the sphere of human beings the temporal. Thus the prologue makes two main points.
The first of these is that the abstract, the incomprehensible, the indecipherable, the unknowable, and the absolute mystery which is the Word and God, have become concrete, comprehensible, decipherable, and knowable and a mystery revealed because of the Word becoming flesh. However, this mystery is not as easy to understand as it may seem. Many take offense at this. They want something more spectacular; some divine figure, some hero or god-man, some fascinating, mysterious being, able to impress everyone with the feats of might and glory. But what they saw was only a man; a man of compassion, a man who claimed to speak the truth. And they saw no glory here. No longer can we say that our God could not understand what it is like to struggle against the opposition, to have to flee to another country, to be betrayed by a friend, to grieve the loss of a loved one, to fear suffering and death, to experience a seeming absence of his father. No, our God has truly walked our walk; God's Word of Love has truly taken flesh. Through this act of the Incarnation, God and the Word have become Father and Son. God, the Father is revealed in the Son, Jesus. Through this act, heaven has come down to earth and earth and heaven are reconciled as never before. The incarnation means that human beings can see, hear, and know God in ways never before possible. The relationship between divine and human is transformed, because in the incarnation human beings are given intimate, palpable, corporeal access to the cosmic reality of God. The newness wrought by God in Jesus is so dramatic that a conventional narrative of origins is insufficient. That is because the story of Jesus is not ultimately a story about Jesus; it is, in fact, the story of God. When one sees Jesus, one sees God; when one hears Jesus, one hears God.
The second point that the prologue makes is the response of humanity to the incarnate Word. Since the Word is not a Word that is thrust on creation, but given freely and in total generosity, human beings must respond to the Word in freedom. This response is either of acceptance or rejection. One cannot ignore the potent power of the Word.
The rejection of the Word by Jesus’ own people while being a historical fact is a rejection that continues even today. Darkness continues to try to overcome the light. This becomes evident when we look at our world which is a world in which corruption, selfishness, injustice, intolerance, communal disharmony and racial and caste discriminations continue to raise their ugly heads. It is seen when people still concern themselves with only the desire to have more rather than be more. It is seen when the concern to accumulate for oneself even to the detriment of not giving others their just due overpowers us.
Yet, despite this rejection of the Word, there is a note of hope and promise because there continue to be people who will choose light over darkness and selflessness over selfishness. There will continue to be people who fight for justice and will never give up this cause. There will continue to be people who will generously give not only of their wealth but also of themselves in imitation of the one who became human and gave all. Those who opt for the light can continue to do so because their openness to the Incarnate Word and all that he stands for makes them receive grace upon grace from him. This abundance of grace continues to sustain through the most trying times and gives them the courage never to give up or give in, but to continue and carry on.
Therefore, the great message of Christmas is that God became what we are, so that we could understand better what God is, and we could believe with all our hearts that God understands what we are.
Those who dare to accept the light and walk in its ways begin to realize that God himself walks with them and ahead of them. They know that God does not stay distant from them, remote and isolated; rather, in Jesus, God chose to live with humanity in the midst of human weakness, confusion, and pain. This bond holds true for all times and all places. To become flesh is to know joy, pain, suffering, and loss. It is to love, to grieve, and someday to die. The incarnation binds Jesus to the “everydayness” of human experience. The Word lived among us, not simply in the world. The Word became flesh and the Word’s name is Jesus Christ. This Jesus continues to be born in our midst even today. When selflessness triumphs over selfishness; when generosity triumphs over greed; when light overcomes darkness, then Jesus is born again and again and every day is Christmas.
By taking on our humanity, Jesus has shown us that we can be divine. He has shown us how far we can go even in our humanity. We can love more, we can dare more, we can believe more, and we can be more. Nothing is now outside the scope of our humanity which after the birth of Jesus is no longer a limitation but always an advantage. This is why according to the letter to the Hebrews, God, who spoke of old only through prophets, messengers or messages, has finally and definitively spoken in and through a son. This is also why the oracle of Isaiah composed towards the end of the exile and which announces the return of the exiles to Jerusalem finds its fulfillment. Captivity and limitation have come to an end. Now only freedom and limitlessness are real.
Thus, Christmas is not merely the celebration of a historical birth or a birth that took place over two thousand years ago. It is about becoming conscious of who we really are as human beings. It is the celebration of life in all its fullness. It is the celebration of the transformation of limit to limitlessness, of selfishness to selflessness, of bondage and fear to freedom and unconditional love.