By Sherry Black
A Reading from the Gospel of John 3:31-36
31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
This seems like such an odd scripture to read on Christmas morning; it’s a passage that never appears in our Sunday lectionary, skipped right over. Still, it’s what we are given. It begins to make a bit more sense if we know its context (in seminary the idea that “context is king” was drilled into me). Jesus and the disciples were near the Jordan River, teaching and baptizing, and John and his disciples were there too. When John’s followers asked about Jesus baptizing, he replied, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” John continues by saying that he himself is not the messiah, but only the friend of the bridegroom, the best man. “He must increase but I must decrease.” There’s John the Baptist, always pointing to Jesus.
So John the Evangelist begins to compare Jesus, the one who comes from above, with John, the one who is of the earth. The one who comes from above all is above all. The one from heaven is the pinnacle. If all of salvation history were an hourglass, the focus, the narrowest point, is Jesus and his birth, life, death, and resurrection. Jesus is the focus and purpose of God’s work in human history. The Incarnation is the most significant event in all of history. What a wonder! On this day, the Feast of the Nativity, celebrating the birth of God in human flesh, Jesus, we would do well to reflect upon the significance of Jesus and his wonderful incarnation.
As the writer to the Hebrews reminds us,
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. (1:1-2)
Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of North East India (Church of North India)
Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, N.C.