Full of grace and truth…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth…. For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
–John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18 (New American Standard Version)

On the third day of Christmas, the Western Church celebrates the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Peter, James, and John were the three disciples closest to Jesus, but as important as Peter was, John was arguably Jesus’ best friend. He was, after all, the disciple to whom Jesus committed Mary’s care from the cross.
It’s interesting, then, that the above quote is the closest we get to a Nativity narrative in John’s Gospel. Granted, John was writing after Matthew and Luke had written their Gospels, with a different audience and purpose in mind, and he may have felt that Luke had covered Mary’s recollections well enough that he had nothing to add. (Mark’s Roman audience evidently didn’t care about such things.) Still, one might expect a “Let me tell you about my best bud the Messiah” tone in such a memoir, but we don’t get that overtly from John at all. Rather, his purpose is to combat Gnostic heresies and set the record straight about both Jesus’ humanity and His divinity–this passage is John defining his terms. Yet his love for Jesus still shines through, because he defines his terms in such a movingly lyrical fashion rather than a cut-and-dried treatise. And remember, John was there for the Transfiguration as well as the Resurrection and Ascension, so he had to be thinking about that moment as he wrote about the glory he’d beheld in Jesus.
So this passage isn’t a just-the-facts-ma’am recitation of the events of the Nativity, but it is a summation of the mind-blowing truth: God’s only begotten Son and Word, the eternal Creator, became flesh and dwelt among humans so that we who are fallen and separated from God might still be able to know Him. Wow.

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