“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

These first verses of the Gospel of John are read on Christmas Day. They are, perhaps, along with the 23rd Psalm and the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew), among the most beloved verses in the Bible.

I have always been struck with how deeply these verses go to describe the purpose of the coming of Christ in the flesh: to save all of humanity— “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (1:12).

How are we to receive this undeserved gift of God from God? Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” including a new one: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (14:15; 13:34) Do not love someone as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loves us—totally. Now, this is a really hard commandment! Love like Jesus loves?

Still, Jesus calls us not only to try, but to be effective through action in loving others. “Let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)  Theologian, educator, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman (1899-1981) explains this poetically and prophetically in his interpretation of the Christmas message for the whole year:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among the people,
To make music in the heart.

The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations by Howard Thurman [© 1985 by Friends United Press]