A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Many is the time that we have not heard from relatives or friends, especially on holidays.  Often they  have been busy about many things, but we would enjoy a reminder every now and then.  Perhaps a phone call or a letter.  I don’t think anyone likes to be forgotten.

But, in fact, we do have reminders.  For the church minded we have feast days when we are reminded that somebody cares for us.  One of those moments is the feast of Christmas.  In the Gospel for Christmas (Mass during the day) the famous (and cryptic) first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel are read.

Much is made of the concept “Word,” and there are two items of particular concern.  First, John 1:1-5 reminds us distinctly of Genesis 1:1ff.  Both John and Genesis begin the same way:  “In the beginning….” dealing distinctly with creation.  Second,  John uses the concept “Word” (Greek: logos) as being participatory in the act of creation.  Genesis uses “spirit” (Hebrew: ruah) in the same participatory function, namely, the act of creation.  Because in Genesis, the acts of creation are preceded by “And God said….)

So, what does this mean?  That creation took place with the participation of the Word (“and God said…”) and the Spirit (I think a better translation for ruah is “the creative power of God.”)  The use of Word and Spirit (“creative power”) is highly suggestive.

Another significant concept in John’s gospel is in 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us….”  For the word “lived,” the Greek has “he pitched his tent.”  Which means that one can un-pitch the tent and go be with the group. The individual becomes mobile.

The above leads to an ultimate Christian belief, namely, that God became human in the person of Jesus Christ.  Hence the mobility of the tent to accompany his people.  This leads to the concept that God (in the person of Jesus) lives among us.  In Hebrew this is IMMANUEL, which means “God with us.”  Throughout the period of Advent we have often heard the hymn “O come, O come Immanuel…”  Advent is the time of expectation.

What we learn from the Gospel (John 1:1-18) most likely can be summed up in the following ways.  First, Jesus is the Word of power.  During his public ministry he created people anew by dealing with them in terms of justice, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, and healing.  His disciples were to carry on his work.

Secondly, throughout the Old Testament we notice that God’s presence among his people was crucial to their survival and service.  We note both the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple.  This Immanuel theme continued in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus and his dealings with other people.  Thus, Jesus continued to “pitch his tent” among those who felt marginalized.  As faithful disciples we are also expected to “pitch our tent” among those who feel marginalized by society.

If such is the case, then we know that God is with us and the hope of Immanuel continues to live on.




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