2018-19 RCL-C Christmas Day
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Christmas Day: December 25, 2018 • Gospel Text: John 1:1-14
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
Can we talk about Logos Christology a bit? Like, was there a “word” without flesh? Colin Gunton, one of our greatest contemporary theologians on Christology and Trinitarian theology, had throughout his career a growing criticism of what was known as the logos asarkos (word without flesh). Much Western theology prefers to discuss Jesus in terms of the act of Incarnation (Christmas!) and therefore to start with the logos (including John 1 itself).
However, there’s a basic problem, it’s hard to define what precisely this “Word” (Logos) is, other than that it’s eternal and has taken upon flesh. Theology then moves quickly along, saying, essentially, we can worry about defining all of this later and see whether it fits together systematically.
Gunton on the other hand is part of a revolution in Christian theology that sees this all as theology that wishes to be faithful to the incarnational motifs of Scripture but fails to argue what on earth any of this is. He is remarkably anti-speculative and in following Karl Barth shows that there is no knowledge of God outside of Jesus. On that basis, any talk about the Word’s eternal character is determined by Jesus’ life on earth.
‘The incarnation of the eternal creating Word in the human being, Jesus of Nazareth, betokens God’s freedom of action within the material world’ (The Christian Faith, p. 10). This is the kind of construction frequently found in Gunton. He strictly and regularly ensures that God’s action in the world is related to and exemplified in the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth.
Any talk about the Word’s eternal character is determined by Jesus’ life on earth. That’s something a good preacher can do if they’ve just preached Luke 2 Christmas Eve and are waking up Christmas Day to preach again on John. One of the things it does, potentially, is to revise the view of the eternity of God itself. Whatever the eternity of God is, it begins with fidelity to Jesus and the God known in Israel, rather than the flight to an esoteric pre-existent and fleshless Logos.
Come Christmas Day, there’s a word, the Word, and this Word is most light, most radical, most Christmas-y, when it not only brings good news to the world in the flesh, but takes whatever it is we mean by flesh and humanity, and sends it back up into God. As if God in God’s eternity wakes up Christmas Day and receives a Christmas present.
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Historical Exegetical Resources
The Five Gospels Parallels, John W. Marshall, University of Toronto.
Images, descriptions and textual critical notes: The beginning of the Gospel of John from Papyrus Bodmer II (p66, 200 C.E.), Papyrus Bodmer XV (p75, 175-225 C.E.), Codex Vaticanus (B or 03, mid fourth century), Codex Sinaiticus (aleph or 01, mid fourth century), Codex Bezae (D or 05, sixth century), Codex Washingtonianus (W or 032, fourth - sixth century), Codex Alexandrinus (A or 02, fifth century), and Codex 666 (12th or 13th century). From Timothy W. Seid's Interpreting Ancient Manuscripts web.
Philo on Word/Logos, Light and Darkness and other Allegorical Philosophical parallels at (Rutgers University Dept of Religion) Mahlon H. Smith's Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus companion to the historical study of Christian texts.
"When all things began to be made by the Word: in the beginning of heaven and earth, and this whole frame of created beings, the Word existed, without any beginning. He was when all things began to be, whatsoever had a beginning." From Wesley's Notes.
"No Plastic Jesus Here: The Word Became Flesh," Janet H. Hunt, Dancing with the Word.
“Christmas is ruined by children”, by Trevor Mitchell. The Guardian
Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) - Amy Grant (Christmas cover by Christy-Lyn)
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Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator 1, Narrator 2
Narrator 1: 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 without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Narrator 2: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
Narrator 1: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.