Mary and the Christ Child with angels are depicted in a painting titled "Holy Night" by Carlo Maratti. CNS/Bridgeman Images

God's Word on Sunday: God has always been at work on our behalf

  • December 23, 2022

Nativity of the Lord (Year A) Dec. 25 (Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18)

We all long for some good news for a change. Most are sick of the steady flow of darkness, pain and negativity that bombard us each day. What would it be like to hear some absolutely wonderful news? What would it be? 

For the exiles in Babylon, the news was wonderful indeed — they were going home. The opening words of this passage are truly inspiring: how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 

The people were invited and urged to celebrate and sing for joy and to put the pain and darkness behind them. At the heart of this message were the words “your God reigns” — God rules the Earth, not the forces of darkness. This was the core of the proclamation of Jesus in the New Testament; the kingdom of God has come near. God was taking charge and putting things right. 

All these words are very inspiring to be sure, but it would be easy for a bit of cynicism to creep in. Where is the evidence for this presence and power of God? What does the “good news” mean for us in the 21st century? The good news is that God wills the redemption and healing of the world and humanity. God is present; God is not indifferent to our plight; God cares more deeply than we can ever imagine. God will give us the grace and the tools to untangle the unholy mess we are in but will not wave a hand and make it all go away. It will require dedication, commitment and hard work on our part. But if we take one step towards God, God takes two or three or even more towards us. The good news is of little help unless it is received into the heart and applied.

The Letter to the Hebrews assures us that God has been at work for millennia on our behalf. There has never been a time in which God was not present and working towards our redemption. All of this converged in the incarnation of the Christ, who is the “exact imprint of God’s very being.” 

To encounter Jesus is to know and experience God. Jesus sits enthroned over creation and humanity and it is to Him we look for life and salvation. He is the exact image and imprint of God the Father, and it is through encounter and friendship with Jesus that the image and likeness of God in our own souls is renewed and brought to life.

The first 18 verses of the Gospel of John are a carefully crafted hymn of our redemption. For many centuries, the very words were thought to have power when spoken aloud. The hymn begins before time and creation and speaks of the one through whom all things were made. This was the eternal Word of God. 

Word — logos in Greek — was a term with many meanings and nuances. It could mean expression, order, message and harmony. In a “deep dive” into creation and humanity, this Word became flesh and dwelt among us — or as the Greek asserts, literally “pitched His tent” among us. 

The insistence that the divine word actually became flesh and did not just appear that way is a unique aspect of Christianity and has always been mind-bending and controversial, but it is of supreme importance. It was then that the divine and human were joined. The Word made flesh would be rejected by many, but those who did receive Him with open minds and hearts would be reborn as children of God. They would experience a new life as the interior image of God was called to life. It is important to remember that the darkness could not overpower the Word then and it cannot do so even now. 

Regardless of how the world appears at times, the light is in the world permanently. Jesus is our channel to God and to the realm of the spirit. We too become bearers of light and hope as we continue the mission of the Christ. 

The words of this hymn do indeed have power — when they are taken to heart and applied in our lives.