My great-grandmother Tiny (her name was actually Tina) was a “character.” One day, while sweeping her front porch, she slipped and fell down the three or four stairs that connected the porch to the walkway. She hurt her ankle, but managed to get to her feet and limp her way into the house.
My grandfather, who was visiting her, saw how puffy her ankle already was, and he insisted on taking her to the hospital emergency room. Tiny had other ideas: “My ankle ain’t broke, and I ain’t payin’ a doctor good money to tell me it ain’t.” They argued about it for a while, and finally, Tiny reluctantly got in the car and went downtown to the emergency room. Her going did not mean she changed her opinion, though. Every few minutes, she’d huff to my grandfather: “This is a waste of good time and good money. My ankle ain’t broke.”
After the X-rays came back from the lab, the young doctor who had been examining her said, “Well, Mrs. Cox, it looks like you have a pretty bad sprain, but your ankle isn’t broken.” Tiny, her eyes bright with smug satisfaction, said to the doctor, while pointing at my grandfather: “I been tellin’ him that all along. I knowed that from the first beginnin’, before all this started.”
The Gospel of John claims that the Christmas story began “in the first beginning”: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).
God has always been speaking the Word of love, a Word which (who), Christians believe, found clearest utterance in the life of Jesus: “The Word became flesh and lived among us . . . full of grace and truth ” (John 1:14).
In the naturally limited life of that one person in that one place, we see the vast and eternal love of God. In the words of that one man, spoken over the span of a few years, in a time and language not our own, we hear the voice of God calling us to faith and hope. In the death of that one man, and the resurrection which followed it, we see the broken but determined heart of God, bringing life out of death and hope out of despair.
When we see Jesus, we see God, radiant and splendid, bright and beautiful, shining the light of life and love among us. Here is the heart of the Christmas story: From the first beginning and forever, God has been, is, and will be with us in Jesus-like ways, welcoming us, sustaining us, inspiring us to join in the work of justice and peace, and healing us of the fear which keeps us from receiving and giving love.