Obviously it isn’t really a “vs.” situation; both are scripture, both are beautiful, both are full of wonders. But with my mind on the incarnation, I realize that I love Luke 2:1 – 20. I love the concrete and specific time and place details, the journey on a donkey to one’s hometown, the mixed feelings — “we’re just going because we have to, we wouldn’t be traveling in Mary’s condition otherwise, we don’t care if we’re at home in some sense” — the cold shepherds doing their job, the beautiful angels doing theirs. I love this story. Every year, honest, I see more and more richness in it.
However John 1 is very very poetical, yes? For years I didn’t even understand it as a Christmas story. “In the beginning….” Our church did a Jesse Tree one year and I was like, why are we going all the way back to Genesis? And at Easter, at the Saturday night service, we go all the way back to Genesis. I’m a little slow to the party, eh? “In the beginning….” Jesus/God/Holy Spirit — all there always. Relationships all the way down. But as beautiful as the language is, and as rich as it is, the story of Luke 2 makes more sense to me, at least this year.
This year, I appreciate and want to be grounded. I want to know where I am, and where I am going, and where all my people are. This year I lined my creches up in a row. This year of oddly warm weather creating tons of dark and dreary rain, I don’t think about light and candles so much as: how noisy was the stable? Did any of the hay in the manager scratch the baby? Was Mary too weak to hold him? When she nursed him, all through that first night in between bits of sleep, did Joseph help, holding her up, keeping them warm, watching over them with a tired smile and keeping them safe? When the shepherds showed up in the early hours of dawn, and people of the inn and the village started getting around for another day, were they all smiling and careful around a new mother, a new baby? Did Joseph’s cousins come by? While everyone else shook their heads at the shepherd’s story of angels, Mary treasured their words and pondered them in her heart.
And that does bring us back to words: Words from Caesar, words from shepherds, words from Angels. And then “in the beginning”, the Word from God, the Word now given to us in the flesh, in a way to understand it. (Words in dreams and rulers and wise men if you look at Matthew.) The gift of the Word, the gift of God’s son, gifts of God just because He loves us that much. The wonder of it all might lie in the moments of silence.