Because of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek to do you good. Psalm 122:9
December 27th is the Feast of St. John. There’s plenty of scholarly publish-or-perish paper to peruse about whether John the Apostle, John the writer of the fourth Gospel, John the source of three letters to the Church (or heck, let’s argue about whether different people wrote all three!) and John the recipient of the Revelation (yes, THE Revelation TO John, NOT Revelations of John) are the same dude.
As to so much of the institutionally bulky but spiritually puny church, we might say Whatev and just feast on the Good News associated with John’s name. It is so appropriate that his Feast falls during the 12 Days of Christmas, because where Matthew and Luke bless us with the details of Jesus’ birth, it is John who gives us the full import of the event in the Prologue of his Gospel,
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
That’s the meaning of Christmas, missed by the many who skip the First Sunday After Christmas, when John 1:1-18 is the appointed Gospel (except this year, when January 1 falls on the Sunday and the Holy Name of Jesus is celebrated). That’s The Incarnation, the establishment of the new and truest house of the Lord in the body and blood of the Christ.
John’s magnificent synthesis of Semitic prophecy with Hellenic philosophy doesn’t just float in the clouds, but walks the earth. Because Jesus is the true house of the Lord, there is good to be done. The same Gospel of a preexisting, divine Word calls for an on-the-ground, human application,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (Jesus, quoted in John 13:34-35)
Throw in the three letters attributed to John and the Revelation, and the name of the beloved disciple presents a Christianity that is at once spiritual, intellectual, mystical and behavioral; steeped in past prophecy and itself prophetic of things to come.
One of my favorite passages in John is his remembrance of Jesus’ patient effort to get the truth across. Those of us who preach and/or write can find some comfort in the fact that the message is not easy to convey; even our Lord had to try and try again,
“A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…” (John 10:5-7, and when that “illustration” doesn’t seem to work he tries again with “I am the good shepherd.”)
May we come to know the fullness of God in Jesus and, because we do, love one another in this life and together enter the life to come.
The Collect for this day in the Book of Common Prayer sums it up well,
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light,
that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and
evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that
at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.