Reflection for Tuesday, December 27, 2016: Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist.
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Two days ago we were in a stable in Bethlehem. Now we are outside the empty tomb. Liturgical time can really fly…|I love Christmas season; it may be my favorite liturgical season of the year. As my fellow Americans take down their trees, I revel in 3 weeks of reflection on the Incarnation, the Holy Family, and the Baptism of Jesus. (It helps too that the university slows down at this time of year!) In an effort to extend the timeframe of Christmas, I have even been known to distribute my kids' gifts throughout the 12 days of Christmas.|But in a culture that has largely sentimentalized Christmas, I am struck every year by the strikingly unsentimental way in which Christmas week unfolds: December 26: Martyrdom of St. Stephen, killed like his master outside the gates of Jerusalem. December 28: Massacre of the Holy Innocents, like the children of Aleppo, victims of a brutal and paranoid political leader. December 29: Martyrdom of Thomas Becket, slain at the altar in the midst of a fierce struggle between church and crown.|Likewise, the two phrases that echo over and over in today's gospel reading are "tomb" and "burial cloths." The shadow of Good Friday's cross looms over the angelic voices of Christmas night. This is one of the great mysteries of Christianity.|But to quote one of my favorite verses in John's gospel, "a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). Words of hope and joy leap off the page today. "Beloved." "For the life was made visible." "We have touched him with our hands." "And he saw and believed." "We are writing this so that our joy may be complete." "The Lord is king, let the earth rejoice."|John is the evangelist of the Incarnation, and I am reminded this week that the hope and joy of incarnation are not sentimental. The Word Made Flesh pitches his tent in the midst of a human experience marked by ambiguity, loss, betrayal, division, and violence. This makes the Incarnation all the more radical and perhaps explains why First John is so keen to defend the human reality of Jesus Christ. Incarnation is a mystery better pondered than grasped. We have 3 weeks.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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