Wednesday, Christmas Weekday
(I John 2:29-3:6; John 1:29-34)
It is not uncommon in Shakespearean drama to have the main character talked about before he is presented on stage. This happens in Hamlet when the main character’s friends flirt with his father’s silent ghost and then say that Hamlet will make it 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.’” He means that Jesus’ sacrificial death will free humanity from the bondage of sin. Then John refers to the younger Jesus as “’(A) man … who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” The peculiar statement refers to Jesus’ preexistence as God’s eternal Son. Finally, the Baptist relates how he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. This incident is meant to indicate that Jesus 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 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 always resemble the song of the angels over Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest…”