Second Sunday of Christmas
January 2, 2011
or Sirach 24:1-12
Psalm 147:12-20 (12)
or Wisdom 10:15-21 (20)
John 1:[1-9], 10-18
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
O God our redeemer, you created light that we might live, and you illumine our world with your beloved Son. By your Spirit comfort us in all darkness, and turn us toward the light of Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Alleluia. We have observed his star | at its rising,
and have come to | worship him. Alleluia. (Matt. 2:2)
la. CONTEXT: John 1:[1-9], 10-18
Any effort to discuss the context of the Johannine
Prologue has to grow out of some theory not only of how
the gospel as a whole came to be written but also of the
relation of the Prologue to the rest of the gospel.
Bultmann (Gospel of John, pp. 16-18), for instance,
thought that the Prologue was a part of the Discourse
source which had originally come from a Gnostic community
around John the Baptist and that this source had been
edited in a Christian direction after the Evangelist was
converted. Haenchen (John I, 77),on the other hand,
believed that the evangelist, who edited his source away
from an emphasis on miracles as proof Jesus' identity,
introduced his gospel with an early Christian hymn. Still
others have offered the theory that the Prologue was
written after the gospel to serve as an introduction to it
(Harnack, reported in Schnackenburg, The Gospel According
to St. John, I, 221).
These notes will not try to decide whether the Prologue
came into existence independently of the rest of the
gospel. The canonical form of the gospel includes it and
thus (a) it must have made sense that way to whomever put
it into its present condition and (b) that is the
canonical form that the church accepts as authoritative.
This decision, however, means that the fascinating
question of whether some of the verses are poetic or
hymnic and others are prose insertions and thus later
redactions cannot be answered in as thoroughgoing a way as
they could be when they were part of an integrated theory
of the origin of the Prologue. The decision, however,
will not exclude issues of the background of the thought
of the Prologue.
The position to be taken about the authorship of
the gospel as a whole will be similar to that advanced by
Raymond Brown in The Community of the Beloved Disciple.
The original tradition of the Johannine community came
through the Beloved Disciple, a disciple of Jesus who was
not one of the Twelve. Someone in that community wrote
that tradition down around A.D. 90, incorporating a higher
christology that had come into the community with a group
of Samaritan converts. The gospel was probably written
after the community had moved to Ephesus and also reflects
some gentile influence.
A modern context parallel to that in which the
gospel first appeared is the situation of contemporary
Christians who wish to profess the christology of the
councils as that is understood today from the standpoint
of a critical hermeneutic. We are surrounded by a secular
world that disbelieves in anything outside the sphere of
natural explanation, others who call themselves Christian
who have a much lower understanding of the person and work
of Christ, and still other Christians who hold the
historic faith in such an uncritical way that it is hard
to feel that they and we mean the same thing by the
affirmation. Anyone affirming the faith which developed
from the Johannine Prologue it bound to feel like a lonely voice.
Ib. TEXT: John 1:[1-9], 10-18
[ 1Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων: 5καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. 6Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης: 7οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν, ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι' αὐτοῦ. 8οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλ' ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός. 9*)=ην τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. ] 10ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. 11εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. 12ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 13οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλ' ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν. 14Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. 15Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων, Οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον, Ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. 16ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν, καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος: 17ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε: μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
The Word Became Flesh
[ 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*]
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,* who is close to the Father’s heart,* who has made him known.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized), ©1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
2. ANALYSIS: John 1:[1-9], 10-18
Jn. 1:1 - en archei en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton
theon, kai theos en ho logos -"In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"
(AILL, An Inclusive Language Lectionary) - The
"beginning" is the time before creation. Brown insists
that pre-existence in the Pauline hymns in Phil. and Col.
do not go back so far; in Col. 1:18, God's Son is "the
first- born of all creation" (Community, p. 46). As he
points out in The Birth of the Messiah (pp. 29-32), the
moment at which the divine identity of Jesus was made
clear is understood differently by different NT writings:
the resurrection, baptism, or birth.
John pushes that moment back before creation (cf.
Haenchen, I, 124).Although Johannine use of the term logos
(which occurs in the gospel only in the Prologue and only
in reference to the pre-incarnate Lord) has been studied
at various times in relation to OT concepts such as "the
Word of God" and against a range of Greek thought, most
scholars now consider it to be a development of the
concept of personified Wisdom as seen in Proverbs 8 and
Wisdom, as evolved through speculation on the Aramaic
concept of memra and Philo's understanding of logos.
The New English Bible says that the Word "dwelt with
God" and Brown translates "was in God's presence" (The
Gospel according to John, I,3). There is much debate about
theos without the article. Brown says "God," Haenchen
says "divine"; perhaps NEB handles it best by saying:
"what God was, the Word was." It is essential to remember
that we do not have a Trinitarian understanding, but only
the raw material that made such an understanding
Jn. 1:3 - panta di' autou egeneto, kai choris autou
egeneto oude hen ho gegonen -"all things were made through
the Word, and without the Word was not anything made that
was made" (AILL) - The Word not only pre-existed but was
the divine agency in creation (cf. Proverbs 8:22-31).
Haenchen (I,114) argues convincingly that ho gegonen
should end vs. 3 (as in KJV) rather than begin vs. 4;
there is little difference in meaning.
Jn. 1:4 - en auto zoe en, kai he zoe en to phos ton
anthropon - "In the Word was life, and the life was the
light all."(AILL) - "Eternal life" is John's basic term
for salvation; thus life and light are virtually
interchangeable. They belong to a series of antithetical
concepts that John uses to refer to the absolute good in
Christ and that which is outside it.
Jn. 1:5 - kai to phos en te skotia phainei, kai he skotia
autou ou katelaben -"The light shines in the darkness, and
the darkness has not overcome it." (AILL) - Haenchen
(I,114f.) makes much of the difference between the present
tense of phainei and the aorist of katelaben. He argues
that this verse is not a reference to the incarnate Lord,
but rather to the attempts of the Logos to offer salvation
to humanity before the incarnation, relating this passage
to the Wisdom myth in Enoch 42:2: "Wisdom went forth to
make her dwelling place among the children of men; and
found no dwelling place."
Brown, on the other hand, relates it to Gen. 3. In
either case it would appear that vss. 6-8 misunderstand,
treating vs. 4 in relation to the incarnation and thus
feeling it necessary to introduce John the Baptist at this
point. They also are more prosaic than the rhythmic vss.
before and after, which reinforces the impression that they are redactional.
Jn. 1:10 - en to kosmo en, kai ho kosmos dictionary autou
egeneto, kai ho kosmos auton ouk egno - "The Word was in
the world, and the world was made through the Word,yet the
world did not know the Word." (AILL) - If vss. 6-8 are a
prose insertion, then 10 and 11 could still be referring
to the Word's pre-incarnate activity, as Haenchen argues.
But to agree with that, one would also have to admit that
vss. 12 and 13 are redactional. Brown, on the other hand,
thinks that 12a and 12b belong to the hymn the evangelist
is using for an introduction (ibid., I,11). For
preaching, the issue is not important since both
pre-incarnate and incarnate activity of the Logos are
referred to somewhere in the Prologue; both are taught in
Jn. 1:14 - kai ho logos sarx egeneto kai eskenosen en
humin, kai etheasametha ten doxan autou, doxa hos
monogenous para patros, pleres charitos kai aletheias -
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of
grace and truth; we have beheld the Word's glory, glory as
of the only Child from [God]the Father [and
Mother]."(AILL) - As Bultmann says (ibid., p. 60), "Just
as the incarnatus est marks a turning point in the Mass,
so too here the character of the Prologue changes....Now
the riddle is solved, the miracle is proclaimed: the
Logos became flesh!" As Haenchen pointed out (I,119), the
Wisdom myth is left behind and the Christian experience of
Jesus Christ takes over.
As St. Augustine says in Confessions VIII.ix,13,
the Christian doctrine that he did not find among the
Platonists was that the Word became flesh. "Became
flesh," of course, means "assumed full humanity." If
space permitted, every word in the sentence could be
studied profitably, e.g., those that pick up and apply to
Jesus the OT concept of the Shekinah, the "tabernacling
presence of God's glory." Vs. 15 is regarded by most
scholars as a redactional interpolation. Thus 16 follows
14 in the original, whether it was written by the
Evangelist or his source. Vs. 17 makes the transition to
the story of the life of Jesus by mentioning Jesus by name
at last as the human being the Logos became. The
significance of the enfleshment of the Logos is the
subject of vs. 18.
3. STRATEGY : John 1:[1-9], 10-18
This Sunday provides a rare opportunity for
thoroughly theological preaching. The community has just
gone through the feast of the Nativity with the Lucan
focus on "sweet baby Jesus in the manger" that has
permitted the clustering of everyone's sentimentality.
This, of course, is not to blame Luke but to recognize
what so often happens in our society. By getting all
goose-fleshy over the scene in the stable, we are able to
avoid any consideration of its impact on our lives.
John's pushing the christological moment back before
creation does not allow such self- indulgence. (Unless,
God forbid, someone simply becomes intoxicated over the
language and renders it harmless by treating it as if it
were mere poetry--as if real poetry were ever "mere" and
was only supposed to sound good and not to mean anything.)
John reminds us that we need a christology that is
adequate to our soteriology, which, in turn, must be
adequate to our anthropology. Thus we can begin with an
analysis of the human condition and go on to see what it
would take to save us from that and what sort of Savior
would be necessary to do that. When that is done well, no
one is likely to imagine that the doctrines of the creeds
and councils were just something thought up by the
theologians to make it hard.
4. REFERENCES: John 1: 1-18
Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. Garden City,NY:
_______________. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York:
Paulist Press, 1979.
_______________. The Gospel According to St. John, 2
vols. Anchor Bible Series. Garden City,NY: Doubleday, 1966/1970.
Bultmann, Rudolf. The Gospel of John: A Commentary,
transl. G.R. Beasley- Murray, et al. Philadelphia:
Haenchen, Ernst. A Commentary on the Gospel of John,
transl. R.W. Funk, 2 vols. Hermeneia Series. Philadelphia: Fortress,
Schnackenburg, Rudolf. The Gospel according to St. John,
transl. Kevin Smyth, vol. 1. NY: Herder and Herder, 1968.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: John 1: 1-18
NOT "Away in a Manger!" Most of the Traditional
Christmas Carols would be inappropriate for a sermon such
as is sketched above. Two possibilities are OF THE
FATHER'S LOVE BEGOTTEN (HB 82, LBW 42) and JOY TO THE
WORLD (HB 100, LBW 39). More christological hymns such as
AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW(HB 435, LBW
179) and WHAT WONDROUS LOVE IS THIS?(HB 439, LBW 385) are
more to the point. GOD HIMSELF IS WITH US(HB 475,LBW 249)
and CHRIST IS MADE THE SURE FOUNDATION (HB 518,LBW 367)
with the strong Purcell tune, "Westminster Abbey," are
other real possibilities for this Day.
Additional; ELW Suggestions:
Gathering: Love has Come – 292 (or 267 or 275 or 837 )
The Day: O Come, all ye Faithful – 283 (or 291 or 298
Offertory: Come to the Table – 481
Communion: What Feast of Love – 487 (or 295 or 510 or 294)
Sending: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – 270 (or 275 or 287 or 299)
Exegete: O.C. Edwards, PhD ... is the author of A History of Preaching (Abingdon, 2004).
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