by Carol Dixon
I love words! Since childhood I have been an avid reader, from my teens & twenties I have written poetry, songs, & Biblical reflections and, more recently, have written a number of hymns which have been published by the Iona Community among others since the early 2000s. For more than half my lifetime, I have been a lay preacher, dealing with the spoken word, despite being shy and unable to read aloud as a youngster – my father once told me that I spoke my first word aged six months then added under his breath that he didn’t think I had stopped speaking since!
Words are wonderful things, conjuring up images in our imagination, interesting us, empowering us, consoling us, delighting us. So it is little wonder that one of my favourite passages from the Gospels is John Chapter 1: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.‘
I often like comparing favourite well-known readings in different translations so that they don’t become stale and also to discover what new insights I might discover. I love to look out and see what particular word might resonate with me and spark my imagination and it’s interesting to note if a different word catches my eye at different times (You might like to try it).
I like the Message Bible translation which keeps close to the original but phrases it in new ways:
1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.
3-5 Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out. (John 1 v 1-5 The Message, Eugene Peterson)
Another modern version ‘The Word on the street’, a translation for Young People has a very arresting way of starting the New Testament (which is called ‘New Promise’):
‘Nothing. No light, no time, no substance, no matter – the Voice was there. Before anything moved, mutated or mated, Jesus, God’s Voice, was there with God from the kick-off. How come? Cos Jesus, ‘God’s Voice’, is God. Before anything began, they had always been. Before there was even anywhere to be, they were there.
Jesus got the name ‘God’s Voice’ because he just spoke and stuff started. From nothing to everything, sparked only by the Voice. There’s nothing that doesn’t have the phrase ‘made by Jesus’ stamped on it somewhere. His words were life itself, and they lit up people’s lives – his light could blast its way into the darkest corner, yet the people who preferred darkness still missed it.’ (John 1 v 1-5 The Word on the street, Rob Lacey)
The beginning of John’s Gospel (in whatever translation you prefer) tells a profound truth – that God wanted to communicate with the world in a way they could relate to so he shared part of himself, his living Word, who would show humanity what God was really like, attested by his own Word made flesh. The Word of God became a human being, full of grace and truth.
So this Advent, as we try to tell the story to people who walk in darkness around us, how will we communicate God’s love to our world in our time. What will the Word on the street be for us?
A poem I wrote a few years ago says:
Word made flesh
How do you
Is it possible
and laughter lines
So that the impact
the mists of
In a word,
LOVE! © Carol Dixon
Let’s leave the last word to John – this time in a musical setting of the first chapter of the last gospel written by another friend of mine & fellow hymn writer, Greta Wrigley: Word of God.
Word of God, source of life, born into our world of strife.
Word of God, bringing light, born into our world of night.
Chorus: The Word of God became a human being,
Jesus born at Bethlehem;
The Word of God became a human being,
Glory to god in highest heaven.
Word of God, full of grace, born into our human race.
Word of God, truth made known, In him is God’s glory shown. Chorus:
Word of God, good news to tell, God is here, Emmanuel.
Word of God, Prince of Peace, his kingdom comes and will not cease. Chorus: © Words & Music Greta Wrigley