The ancient Greeks, like us moderns, and maybe like people of every time and place, wondered about the universe. They looked out and saw the marvelous ordering of the heavens and how the stars and planets moved in predictable patterns. They gazed at the beauty of trees and forests, fields and oceans. They wondered at the magnificence of the human body. Wherever they looked they saw pattern and order and beauty, and they thought to themselves, It all must have some common origin, some organizing principle, some animating force.
The Hebrews also marveled at the mystery of the universe. The psalms are a record of their awe. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” they exclaimed (Ps. 8:1); “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims its maker’s handiwork,” they confessed (Ps 19:1); “I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well,” they cried in gratitude (Ps. 139). For Israel, God was the origin and creator of all that is.
The Bible tells that the way God created all things was by speaking (Genesis 1). The creative force and organizing principle of the universe, then, is the word – dabar in Hebrew, and logos in Greek.
In the beginning was the Word…
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth.
John’s Gospel marvels that when Jesus was born the soul of the universe became visible to human eyes. In Christ we come to understand that at the foundation of all things is a human consciousness and a heart of love. There is a cosmic significance to Jesus’ birth that we sometimes miss in all the sentimentality of Christmas – cute babies, cuddly sheep, and pretty angels. He is the alpha and the omega, the origin of all things, the head of creation, and God’s own Word. He is filled with beauty, grace, and truth… and, as the rest of John’s gospel will reveal, love.
The fundamental message of Christmas is that in its essential nature, the universe is love. We live and move and have our being in that love. We are embraced by it, even when it seems invisible to us, even when we are sometimes hostile to love. Still it is there. Because the story of the manger is inseparable from the story of the cross, we come to understand that not even death can end the love that exists for us, in us, around us.
May the Word of love be made ever more manifest in your life this Christmas, and in the new year to come.
NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer has captured a huge mosaic of two bubbling clouds in space, known as the Heart and Soul nebulae.