IN THE BEGINNING – Second Sunday after Christmas Day; Epiphany of the Lord (RC)

January 2, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
Jeremiah 31:7-14
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:(1-9) 10-18

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 (see 11)
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

The following reflection is based on Scripture readings for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day. For a Word and Song reflection on the Epiphany of the Lord, click here.

“In the beginning. . .”

Genesis, the very first book in the Bible, begins with this short yet profound phrase: “In the beginning” (Gen 1:1). As we hear these very same words at the opening of John’s Gospel, we are invited to recall the Genesis creation story, but to view it from a different perspective.

Genesis starts with the void into which God spoke a creating word, while John opens with the Word that has existed from all eternity: “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). The passage we hear today from John’s Gospel reinterprets the creation story as centered in Christ, the divine Logos: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (1:3).

The Logos, the Word that God has spoken into the universe, was not only with God in the beginning—the Logos in fact is God. It was God’s plan from the beginning that the divine should enter human history to bring light and life.

Just as in Genesis God saw all that had been made and declared it good, so too does John’s prologue affirm the goodness of a creation in which everything has come to being in Christ. As we face the crisis of climate change, the Christmas celebration offers us an opportunity to reaffirm our own responsibility to care for the planet that not only was created in Christ but which the Word embraced by becoming part of it.

It was not enough for God to remain aloof. Unlike Bette Midler’s song informing us that “God is watching from a distance,” the Gospel of John proclaims that “the Word became flesh and lived among us” (1:14). The God who existed from all time has in Christ joined us in our earthly pilgrimage so that we might meet God up close rather than “from a distance.”

Christ is at the same time the eternal God and one of us, and “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14). The divine Logos has become our brother and in so doing has embraced the entire human family, affirming the dignity of every person.

The breathtakingly beautiful hymn that we hear today from John’s Gospel gives expression to God’s deep love for the created universe and the human family. It presents a rather different version of the Christmas story from the familiar tales of shepherds in Luke and magi in Matthew. Today we read the prologue to the Gospel of John as a reminder that Christmas celebrates not just Christ’s birth, but the entire mystery of Christ’s incarnation—all the implications of God’s coming among us as a human being.

As the Word-made-flesh carried out a ministry of compassion rooted in the worth of all people, so does the Christmas celebration call us to care for others, encourage the downhearted, work for justice, welcome immigrants and refugees, and engage in efforts to end racism, transphobia, and all that excludes and divides. These are the ways in which we can make Christ known, just as in his life and ministry he made God known through acts of love, carrying out the plan of God that was “in the beginning.”

A Hymn for Today: “From the Dawning of Creation”

Delores Dufner, OSB, FHS, has drawn together the primary of images of John 1 to create a hymn in praise of Christ the Word both eternal and incarnate, whose birth has brought us light and life.

From the dawning of creation
God was present in the Word.
And the Word was God eternal,
Willing all that came to be.
Jesus is that Word eternal.
Jesus is the Word of life.

Light appeared in deepest darkness,
Night was ended, morning dawned.
And that light is ever burning,
Brightness never overcome.
Jesus is that Light eternal.
Jesus is the Word of life.

Human eyes have seen God’s glory;
Human hands have touched God’s own.
In our likeness, here among us,
Dwells the Word, incarnate God.
Jesus is that word incarnate,
Jesus is the Word of Life.

Text: Delores Dufner, OSB, b. 1939, © 1988, 2003, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857

Image Credit: Ceiling of National Cathedral of Brazil, Brasilia

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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