24 December John 1: 1–14
A memorable scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V is set on the eve of the battle of Agincourt. The king, about to take huge risks in battle, wanders incognito among his soldiers, and hears what they really think of him.
John presents Jesus in the same light. He could not give greater emphasis to Jesus’ power and authority. He is the Word of God, revealing God’s purpose for the world. He is the channel for God’s power in creating everything that exists. He is the inextinguishable Light. And, like any king, he has a forerunner. John the Baptist has already come to proclaim that the king is coming.
Yet when Jesus does come, no-one recognises him. John’s Gospel does not tell stories of the stable and the homeless refugee baby, but there is the same emphasis on Jesus’ anonymity. He is the incognito king, his power unacknowledged.
In our look-at-me culture of celebrity, this is hard to understand. And it becomes more confusing. In this Gospel, there is just one moment when Jesus claims his fame – ‘when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32). His eye-catching royal throne is the Cross.
The only ones who recognise Jesus are the ones who receive him and believe in him, children born of God. They see his glory, the glory of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth. But they recognise him through the lens of the Cross, the love of power utterly destroyed by the power of love. It is that power we celebrate this Christmas.
God of love, help us to recognise you among people who are lonely and unloved, isolated and marginalised, poor and helpless in our city. Help us to make your cross-shaped kingship real, and empower us to share your love this Christmas.