Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday, Christmas Weekday

(I John 2:29-3:6; John 1:29-34)

It is not uncommon in a Shakespearean drama to have the main character talked about before he is presented on stage.  In the first scene of Hamlet, for example, the protagonist’s friends flirt with his father’s ghost and then say that he will make the ghost speak.  In the Gospel of John, the most dramatic of the four, Jesus is likewise not present in the initial scene but is referenced by John the Baptist.  Today’s passage relates this opening scene.

John the Baptist first describes Jesus as “’…the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,’” that is the one whose sacrificial death will free humanity from the bondage of sin.  Then he uses a paradox -- “’A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me’” – which refers Jesus’ preexistence as God’s eternal Son.  Finally, the Baptist relates how he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove to indicate that he has the definitive power to bestow full life on a diseased people.  It is a very brief scene that telescopes all that Jesus will accomplish in the rest of the gospel.

As Christmas carols worthy of the name incessantly remind us, Jesus came to save us from the folly of our sins and the annihilation of death.  John the Baptist gives the same message here at the beginning of John’s gospel but without the soothing images of a babe at his mother’s side.  Yet our response should approximate the song of the angels over Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest…”