On Earth, Peace

Subtitle: A biblical reflection for the second day of the Christmas season


In the beginning was the Word…And the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1.1a, 14a)

As Luke tells the Christmas story, an angel, appearing to shepherds and announcing the birth of the Messiah, suddenly was accompanied by an angelic chorus proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace” (Luke 2.14).

John opens his gospel narrative with the first words of the Bible: In the beginning… (Genesis 1.1a). Employing the language of creation-story, John takes us behind the earthly scene of time and space, focusing our attention on the celestial goings-on prior to the first dawn. For John, “in the beginning” is before the beginning.

Gazing into the void of this pre-creation state, John speaks of the Word, the divine logos. A concept neither easily nor fully comprehendible. Nevertheless, seeking to grasp some (any) meaning, by necessity, we, in effect, throw our words at the Word in an effort to define it.

Logos. God’s wisdom and will, therefore, both the origin and order, the sense and substance, creative energy and eternal character of the cosmos. Analogously, although impossibly, it would be as if there was one word that summed each of us up so completely that to speak that word would be to convey to another the fullest sense of all that we were, are, and will be. “In the beginning,” John says, concerning God, there “was the Word.”

This is mind-boggling enough, but John continues. This Word, this source of all that is, yearned to unite with the universe. “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” Divine wisdom in flesh. This is the meaning of Christmas.

This, too, is mind-boggling enough, but I do not believe that the Word, divine wisdom wishes only to join us, so to stand apart and distinct from us, to be admired and adored, even worshiped by us. As I read and reflect on the life of Jesus in John’s gospel, it seems to me that God desires to join our lives so that our lives might be joined with and in God. That there may be divine wisdom in flesh, not only in Jesus, but also in us. That there be no estrangement, no separation, no war between heaven and earth, between divinity and humanity, between the cosmic cause of creation and the daily course of the created order. God desires to join our lives, both simply and profoundly, to make peace.

This, I believe, is the meaning of Christmas. Yes, “glory to God in the highest heaven,” yet also “on earth (in us), peace.”

As an inveterate question asker, I wonder. What does divine wisdom taking flesh in us in our thoughts, words, and deeds look like? What would our lives and the world look like if we believed that we, each and all of us, are the incarnations, the embodiments of peace?

© 2020 PRA

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