by Dr. Timothy Smith
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not
one thing came into being. What has come into being in him
was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines
in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Imagine walking with a friend in a snowy forest on a December day. White feathery flakes float to the ground as a rabbit darts for cover. Suddenly you are stopped in your tracks! You are startled at a large translucent ball before you. You look at your friend and your friend looks at you, wondering, “How did that thing get here? Who put it here?” It would never have occurred to either of you that this thing just appeared in the forest. Someone must have made it. Someone must have placed it here.
Yet, you could be asking that of anything you see in the forest that day. “Who made this tree? Who made this rabbit, or these snowflakes almost infinite in their variety? How did they get here?” We would do well to be startled by the wonder of anything we see in the world. “Why this magenta sunset? Why this green-throated hummingbird darting from flower to flower?” All but tired eyes see and wonder.
G. K. Chesterton hoped to always wonder at God’s world around him: “When all my days are ending/And I have no song to sing,/ I think that I shall not be too old/to stare at everything;/ As I once stared at a nursery door/Or a tall tree and swing.” (G. K. Chesterton, “A Second Childhood“, The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton)
Today’s Scripture highlights Jesus the Word as the creative cause of all these wondrous things. It states it positively, then employs the negative, lest we miss the point: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” It is the same Jesus who created all things and put them in their appointed place, who gave Himself to be a helpless baby. The Gospel puts to rest any notion about the eternity of matter or of how, given enough time and chance, the boundless universe came to be. Everything in this world has a beginning except the Word. There never was a was when the Son of God wasn’t. “The universe came to be, not out of some pre-existing material ‘something’, but out of ‘nothing’, non-existence, void. This truth implies the unqualifiable dependence of all things upon the Word of God.” (Bruce Milne, The Message of John)
The apostle Paul joins the joyous chorus praising Jesus the eternal Word: “All things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). The book of Hebrews also celebrates Jesus who “created all things” and “sustains all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:2b, 3b). The Word speaks and it is done; the Word speaks and holds all things together! When theologian Karl Rahner was asked if he believed in miracles he replied, “I don’t believe in miracles, I rely on them to get me through each day.” (Quoted by Roland Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern)
Paul preached to ancient Athenians who were not yet believers, telling them God was “not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being‘” (Acts 17:27b-28). As the God by whom and for whom all things are created and sustained, Jesus comes into the world closely connected to all His creation. He is truly Emmanuel, “God-with-us“, closer to us than we are to our own selves. Or, as St. Augustine wrote from experience: “Higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self.” (St. Augustine, Confessions, III) With almost mystical awareness, fourteenth century theologian Nicholas Cassabalias rejoiced, “God is more a part of us than our own limbs, more necessary to us than our own hearts.” (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way)
Who put that tree there? Who put that rabbit there? More importantly, who put you there? Can you see and can you be in wonder of Jesus the eternal Word: “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”
Dr. Timothy Smith is a friend and a gifted writer. If you want to read his daily Advent devotions,