Dwelling in the Word

Traditionally used at Christmas, this account of Christ’s coming has important implications long after the annual festivities have ended.

It’s helpful to reflect on these verses at a different time of year and to consider some wider themes.

The midnight Christmas service is a special moment for many Christians when we remember and welcome the coming of Christ into the world. There is something about going to church in the middle of the night that makes us aware of the enormity of Christ’s coming.

If you find yourself walking home afterwards on a starlit night, it’s a moment to look up into space and marvel that the one through whom this vast universe was made came into the world as a tiny and vulnerable child.

John opens his Gospel by drawing a parallel with Genesis 1 and the creation of the world. He sees Jesus in the very words of God, creating and sustaining our stunningly beautiful world and cosmos. Jesus did not come into our universe to rescue us from it, he chose to become a part of his amazing creation because he loves everything that he has made. As we consider our care for God’s world, our starting point is that it is intrinsically good and loved by him.

Darkness comes in many forms. Some is ‘natural’ such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, but many forms of darkness are caused or exacerbated by human action. Inadequate building regulations in earthquake zones, or the stripping of mangrove swamps exposing coastlines that had previously had some protection, turn natural events into human disasters. The climate emergency is a darkness of human origin, as we continue to burn fossil fuels at an unsustainable rate. COVID-19 lays bare our abusive relationships with other animals: bat viruses don’t just hop into humans, and the mistreatment of animals, the continuing agricultural industrialisation of once wild landscapes and other factors create the conditions where viruses can spread. Darkness is inherently discriminatory, and both climate change and the global pandemic impact disproportionately on the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

We could despair at the darkness we see in our world, but in Christ we have hope: the light of Christ has come into the world and the darkness cannot overcome it. God has not remained distant from us in our struggles but has made his dwelling among us. God has not deserted us in our difficulties but is alongside us, supporting us, guiding us and calling us to be witnesses of his light. We see his glory and the humbling and challenging message of the Gospel; that we are called to follow him and bring light and life to a suffering world.

Let’s dwell in these verses, asking God to help us fully recognise our Saviour as Creator of our world. Let us ask him to show us how to bring his light into the dark places of discrimination, unsustainability and unbelief. In receiving Christ, we begin a journey of love for God, his people and his damaged, beautiful creation.

Words: the Revd Margot Hodson

This passage from John 1 is known for linking the incarnation of Jesus to the creation narrative in Genesis 1. This is a powerful passage for Dwelling in the Word and reflecting on the environment.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The 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. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who 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.

These verses are from the New Revised Standard version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of  Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.