Gospel Reflections

Feast of the Nativity Daytime

John 1:1-18

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Janelle Sevier

Published: December 25, 2015


The Gospel for the Mass during the Day on Christmas offers us a completely different angle for contemplating the Incarnation than the other Gospels proclaimed on this wonderful feast.

At the Vigil Mass, we hear the genealogy or the story of Joseph taking Mary to be his wife after having been told to do so in a dream. These scriptures make it clear that Jesus had a lineage in the house of David, and as such he was a child born into the rich history that was Israel’s.

The Mass during the Night tells of his birth, giving the details of the story we are so familiar with: a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. This is a child whose birth was proclaimed by angels, first to the poor shepherds who, awestruck, listen as the angels sing of the Glory of God born in their midst.

The Mass as Dawn carries the story forward with the shepherds going in haste to find the infant in the manger, just as they have been told. We get a glimpse of Mary, probably also awestruck, pondering all that is happening.

Then the Mass during the Day talks about the Word, light, darkness, fullness and grace…. Wait, what is happening? What about the shepherds and Mary and Joseph and the newborn child?

The change in tone and content in the prologue from John’s Gospel invites us into an entirely different way to understand the Nativity of the Lord. Borne of the reflection of the Johannine community and anchored in the poetic expression and Greek insight of the writer, we are thrust into a much larger world than a manger in Bethlehem. We are invited into timelessness and into a cosmic understanding of what Incarnation means. We are invited to contemplate the beginning of time and creation where the Word already existed. This Word brought, and brings, Life and light to all who will accept the light, the truth. Then the poetry expands and deepens. The Word gives power to become the children of God, because this all-encompassing Word became flesh and dwells among us. This Word is a presence among us whose fullness is unending and is available to all who receive it.

The Johannine prologue bursts forth with words and images which transcend time and space, trying to express the inexpressible. Somehow the community had come to know, and shares with us, that the reality of God-with-us is much bigger, deeper, broader than they or we could ever imagine.

John invites us to see it, …and to see it ever more deeply, over time and in the entire universe. Perhaps that is what “grace in place of grace” means. Throughout our lives we see and understand partially (as though through a glass, darkly) and then we see again, more deeply and more fully. With this grace we return again and again to see, receiving more and more of the depth and wonder of what it means that God chooses to walk among us.

Grace upon grace, year after year.

Teilhard grasped the breadth and depth of this kind of thinking. In The Divine Milieu, he writes:

“…the divine assails us, penetrates us, moulds us.
We imagined it as distant and inaccessible whereas, in fact,
we live steeped in its burning layers.”

May this Christmas be a time of deep seeing and knowing for you.
Merry Christmas!

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