Updated: Jan 1, 2021
In our tradition, the prologue to John's Gospel (John 1:1-18) is always read the Sunday after Christmas. It's a glorious declaration of profound truth that is worth reading as often as possible, and I have read it a-plenty. But this year, I learned something from HA Ironside, a pastor and teacher who started teaching Sunday school at age eleven (no, really). He was later a pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago and a visiting professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.
After he pointed out what is often focused on in the opening verses of John – that the Son of God, the Logos or Word of God, was eternal (in the beginning was the Word), that he was distinct from the Father (and the Word was with God), and that he was divine in nature (and the Word was God) – he pointed out something that I had always glossed over.
Verse 2 of John 1 reads “He was in the beginning with God.” I always took that as a repetition of the declarations that had just been made – repeated for the sake of emphasis. But Ironside noted that this really highlights the continuity of nature and character of the Word. John is about to tell us of God's saving work in Jesus so that all who read or hear of it might believe and find eternal life. And verse two reminds us that this One who came in great humility, taking on our frail human nature, born a mere babe, growing up to minister to the most marginalized of society, and then dying an agonizing death on a Roman cross, is the same one who was in the beginning with God when together they created the heavens and the earth and filled them with light and life.
In other words, Jesus came to effect a New Creation – a work of God as remarkable, glorious, and majestic as when he filled the vast reaches of the universe with untold billions of stars, calling them each by name.
A friend of mine recently noted in a sermon that it took the Voyager 2 spacecraft 12 years to reach Neptune. When it started to transmit images by radio waves, it took five hours for those images to reach earth. Radio waves travel at the speed of light – 186,000 miles per second. So, you get a feel for the size of just our solar system (60x60x5x186,000 miles+, and that's just from Earth to Neptune). And our solar system is one of perhaps tens of billions of solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is one galaxy among two trillion galaxies in the observable universe.
And in a seeming throw-away line John tells us that what God is doing in Christ is more glorious and remarkable than the creation of the universe. It is the same Word that was in the beginning with God and through whom God made all things that took on flesh and dwelt among us to save us and make us truly his own.
No word seems a suitable response to that. Best to bow in worship.