As you travel the world, one is surprised by the diversity of human experience and practice. So many different things; life seen in so many different ways. On the other hand, when one has one’s eyes open traveling the world, one is surprised by the universality of certain elements of human experience: the importance of family, justice, love, respect, dignity, etc. From the point of view of religion, perhaps the single greatest element of similarity between the wide variety of human religious experience, is the universality of the Golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” In this element, there is great hope, for dialogue, understanding and acceptance. Though we may not know it, the universality of religious truth is also a part of our own Christian faith.
On Christmas Day I spoke of a tour of India I had once been involved in, and about one of the sites we visited. It was a carpet weaving factory, where we were taught about the “persian flaws” that are built into all carpets. This intentional feature is built in, invisibly, but is there, so that no human being may ever claim to have created perfection. The students who were in the group we were leading, looked closely, but couldn’t find the flaws, despite knowing the flaws were “there, from the very beginning.” The gospel text for that day was a portion of the first chapter of John, and we wanted to underscore that the birth of the child was concretizing of God’s love for the world. God loved the world so much that he came incarnate, that is, took on flesh and blood and bone…became one of us, for all of us. And though he did that in a particular moment in time in Jesus, God’s love for us in the Logos has been with us from the very beginning.
This weekend’s text is a prolonged version of the same passage, but this time, I want to underscore the universality of God’s presence to the world. That means that this good news isn’t just for us who believe in the history of the people of Israel and all that has come out of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but the good news is rather much, much greater than we can imagine. God’s saving presence in the world, the Logos, has in fact been everywhere, from the very beginning, and is intended for everyone. For indeed, all of us are God’s beloved children. John’s gospel reminds us that though God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, God has been eternally present to all the world; everywhere, from the very beginning.