Saturday, December 27, 2008

Feast of St. John

If you look at the lectionary calendar for December, you will note this dearth of saints right in the middle, there. You get a bunch of folks at the outset (including, of course, Saint Nicholas), and then two weeks with no one. I like that space. It allows for introspection and keeps me, at least, from saying, "Why aren't I more like Saint Bertha?" at a time that's already fraught with the perils of comparison. It allows for a little quiet.

But now Christmas is here and we're jam-packed with major saints and feast days: St. Stephen yesterday, the feast of the Holy Innocents (usually tomorrow, but transferred to Monday, bumping Thomas Becket), and today, St. John, Apostle and Evangelist and the guy who made the story of Jesus more than just this narrative about this great guy.

OK, I know that's unfair to the other gospellers. But still, he's Mr. Antioptic Gospel, Mr. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" -- that's John's and John's alone. As is the water into wine, the visit of Nicodemus (and being born again), the woman at the well, the man born blind (one of my favorites), the raising of Lazarus, the washing of feet, the farewell's really incredible when you think of it.

It also makes me realize how much language we think of as Christian is actually Johannine. "Born again" being a good example. John 3:16, rather self-referentially, being another. On the link above to the synoptic gospel reference in Wikipedia, I was struck by the table showing the differences with the gospel of John. In particular, this line:

Jesus as Son of God...
Matthew, Mark, Luke
From the time of his birth or baptism
From the time that the universe was created

That's a striking difference. And a seasonal one. The gospel for Christmas eve came from Luke, this humble birth of Jesus with shepherds abiding in the fields. The gospel for Christmas 1 (tomorrow) is "In the beginning was the word...and the Word became flesh and lived among us." Either way, the story boggles the mind, but with John my mind boggles in a totally different way.

I don't know whether to say John took Jesus to a whole new level or John showed us Jesus in a whole different light. Maybe a bit of both. Whichever way it is, John has shaped our language about Jesus and about our faith in more ways than we know.

[Image: the eagle is the symbol of St. John.]

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