Katie Snipes Lancaster
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Reflection on the Nativity
The premise of this month’s devotional is that the nativity can guide our prayer life, our daily intimate connection with God. If that’s true, what does John 1:1 tell us?
The word nativity has to do with birth, with being born, with the circumstance of one’s birth (you can hear the Latin word nasci and its distant linguistic cousins as well: innate, nascent, native, renaissance, cognate). The writer of Luke and Matthew approach the nativity in a more conventional way: his mom was pregnant, he was born. Quite ordinary, despite the extraordinary circumstances of her pregnancy. The gospel of John, however, does the remarkable thing of placing Jesus’ nativity, the circumstances of Christ’s birth “in the beginning.” Here, Jesus’ story is given more ambitious origins. This is no ordinary beginning. This is a beginning that goes way back to the beginning. John is pitching the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in epic terms. This is no small tale. Something monumental is about to happen. John sets the stage by taking us back to the origin of all things.
When my son was born, my best friend gifted him a beautiful quilt depicting all the planets in our solar system. The sun sits at the center. When we first placed him on that quilt as an infant, his tiny body was dwarfed by Earth, Mars, Jupiter and beyond. It was a cute blanket and he was a cute baby, so it made for cute photos. But it also offered a sort of shift in perspective. His small life was placed in a cosmic scope, someone so small had shifted our entire understanding of the universe.
In that way the gospel of John lays baby Jesus out on a quilt with an even grander scale than just the solar system. The Christ Child is set on a quilt that looks back across all time and space. On that tapestry, we sense in a new way that this child changes everything. We realize this child was with us from the beginning, a beginning before which there was no other beginning. This child has been here all along.
It makes for a beautiful theology of prayer, really. The God to whom we turn today has been there all along. The God to whom we pray our deepest worries today was there with us in every age, and was there with our parents, with our grandparents, with our ancestors long past. The sparkle of divine presence that we sense now is there even on the days we can’t feeling God’s presence. The God we sense so deeply on Christmas Eve in the intimacy of candle light singing Silent Night is as near to you now as on December 24th.
Praying the Nativity
O Christ who was and is and always will be:
be with us today in just the right way,
so that we might recognize you anew.