God's salvation is announced to the world.
A prayer of praise for God's salvation.
God now speaks to us through his Son.
John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
John announces that in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Four Masses are celebrated for the feast of Christmas, and each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate Christ's birth. The Gospel for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Gospel of Luke. The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues the story of the birth of Jesus as found in Luke's Gospel through the shepherds' visit to the infant Jesus. In each of these Gospel readings, we hear portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.
The Gospel for the Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John's Gospel, but this Gospel is not an Infancy Narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Instead, John's Gospel begins at the beginning, as it were, and presents the Creation story as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. John's opening words, “In the beginning . . .,” echo the opening verse of the Book of Genesis. This framework invites us to view Jesus' birth from God's perspective. Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus' birth was the result of God's initiative. However, John's Gospel highlights that this was the divine intention from the very beginning, from the moment of Creation.
As we observe in today's reading, the Gospel of John includes highly philosophical and theological language. One example that particularly stands out is John's use of the expression, “Word of God.” This expression (logos in the Greek) borrows from a concept found in both Jewish and Greek thought. In Jewish thought, this phrase describes God taking action—for example, in the Creation story and in the Wisdom literature. In Greek, or Hellenistic, thought, the logos was understood as an intermediary between God and humanity. John and others in the early Church adopted this language to describe God's incarnation in Jesus. As the term was used to express the trinitarian faith of Christians, the word Logos came to be equated with the Second Person of the Trinity.
In this prologue to the Gospel of John, the main themes that will be developed in his Gospel are introduced. These themes are presented as dualities: light/darkness, truth/falsehood, life/death, and belief/unbelief. We also hear in this prologue a unique aspect of John's Gospel—the motif of testimony. John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light. Others in this Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus. The reader is invited to accept this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the Son of God. But even more directly, Jesus' action and words will themselves testify to his identity with God as God's Incarnate Word.
Thinking about Jesus' birth in these theological and cosmological terms seems particularly appropriate as we celebrate the feast of Christmas in the darkness of winter. At this time, nature itself seems to remind us of the darkness of sin. Into this darkness, in the midst of our sinfulness, God comes to dwell among us. John's Gospel reminds us that through the Incarnation, God saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us his children.