Christmas Day (or alternate to Nativity text) The Word Made Flesh
(This is also the text for Christmas I in some churches)
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. 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. 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. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. -John 1:1-18 NRSV
While all things were in quiet silence, and night was in the midst of her swift course, thine Almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down out of thy royal throne, Alleluia.
- antiphon, Christmas Vespers
About the Meditation Prompts
Ray Brown, in his notes on the Prologue of John (The Gospel According to John, vol.1) writes that “in the beginning” in this context "refers to the period before creation and is a designation, more qualitative than temporal, of the sphere of God."
The sphere of God unfolds into time and space and flesh, unknowable yet intimate. God shares in the poverty of my flesh, that I may share in the riches of the Godhead. The heartrending exquisiteness of the prologue breaks Christmas open in "beauteous, heavenly light" as we sing in the hymn from Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Let this light, enkindled in our hearts, shine forth in our lives. Amen. -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) evermore and evermore
Of the Father's heart begotten, Ere the world from chaos rose, He is Alpha: from that fountain All that is and hath been flows: He is Omega, of all things Yet to come the mystic close. Evermore and evermore.
By his word was all created; He commmanded and 'twas done; Earth and sky and boundless ocean, Universe of three in one, All that sees the moon's soft radiance, All that breathes beneath the sun. Evermore and evermore.
O how blest that wondrous birthday When the Maid the curse retrieved, Brought to birth mankind's salvation, By the Holy Ghost conceived; And the Babe, the world's Redeemer, In her loving arms received. Evermore and evermore.
This is he, who seer and sybil Sang in ages long gone by; This is he of old revealed In the page of prophecy; Lo! he comes ,the promised Saviour; Let the world his praises cry! Evermore and evermore.
Sing, ye heights of heaven, his praises; Angels and Archangels, sing! Wheresoe'er ye be, ye faithful, Let your joyous anthems ring, Every tongue his name confessing, Countless voices answering. Evermore and evermore. -Prudentius 348-c.413
In the beginning a silent soundscape, a procession of absolute stillness, unfolding spheres of mystery from veiled unknowable to startling specific, the Word descends embeds, gestates, unfurls as grace upon grace, deep rooted love within love. And so, heaven and earth unite in the Word made flesh dwelling among us. Not then, not now, not once. But evermore.
detail, Garden of Earthly Delights, outer panel, Bosch, c1500
Meditation Two (insight) unknowable
You, O God, are above all that is. These words cannot contain all that could be sung of you. What hymn can ever celebrate your praise? And on what shall the mind rest since you are above the reach of all comprehension?
You only are unknowable yet all that we can think comes forth from you. All beings give you praise, those that think and those that have no thought. All that is makes prayer to you. To you every thinking creature sends up a song of silent praise. All that moves has its motion from you. All that stays still has its rest in you. You are the end of all beings. You are the all and yet are nothing of what created beings are. You are not one among many and you are not the totality of all beings. You have all names there are. Yet for me it is not possible to name you for you are the only one to whom no name can be given.
Have mercy, O God! You are above all this is. These words cannot contain all that could be sung of you.
-Gregory Nazianzus c.329-c.390 Poems, 1,1,29 quoted from Drinking from the Hidden Fountain Thomas Spidlik
Meditation Three (integration) that I may share
He who is without flesh becomes incarnate; the Word puts on a body; the Invisible is seen; by whom no hand can touch is handled; the Timeless has a beginning; the Son of God becomes Son of Man - Jesus Christ, the same yesterday today and for ever. … O strange conjunction! The Self-existent comes into being; the Uncreated is created. He shares in the poverty of my flesh, that I may share in the riches of his Godhead. -Gregory of Nazianzus c.320-c.390 Oration 38, quoted from Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, J. Robert Wright, ed.
In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844-1889
The Last Word
Within us is the soul of the whole, the wise silence, the universal beauty, the eternal One.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882
May Christ, who by his Incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, fill you with his joy and peace...
from the Christmas Blessing The Book of Occasional Services
Cupola of Genesis, Mosaic Artist, Italian, c.1210, San Maarco, Venice