IN HEBREW THE TERM DABAR means both "word" and "deed." Thus to say something is to do something. "I love you." "I hate you." "I forgive you." "I am afraid of you." Who knows what such words do, but whatever it is, it can never be undone. Something that lay hidden in the heart is irrevocably released through speech into time, is given substance and tossed like a stone into the pool of history, where the concentric rings lap out endlessly.

Words are power, essentially the power of creation. By my words I both discover and create who I am. By my words I elicit a word from you. Through our converse we create each other.

When God said, "Let there be light," there was light where before there was only darkness. When I say I love you, there is love where before there was only ambiguous silence. In a sense I do not love you first and then speak it, but only by speaking it give it reality.

"In the beginning was the Word," says John, meaning perhaps that before the beginning there was something like Silence: not the absence of sound, because there was no sound yet to be absent, but the absence of absence: nothing nothinged: everything. Then the Word. The Deed. The Beginning. The beginning in time of time. "The Word was with God, and the Word was God," says John. By uttering himself, God makes God heard and makes God hearers.

God never seems to weary of trying to get across to us. Word after word God tries in search of the right word. When the creation itself doesn't seem to say it right—sun, moon, stars, all of it—God tries flesh and blood.

God tried saying it in Noah, but Noah was a drinking man. God tried saying it in Abraham, but Abraham was a little too Mesopotamian with all those wives and whiskers. God tried Moses, but Moses himself was trying too hard; tried David, but David was too pretty for his own good. Toward the end of his rope, God tried saying it in John the Baptist with his locusts and honey and hellfire preaching, and you get the feeling that John might almost have worked except that he lacked something small but crucial like a sense of the ridiculous or a balanced diet.

So God tried once more. Jesus as the mot juste of God.

"The word became flesh," John said, of all flesh this flesh. Jesus as the Word made flesh means take it or leave it: in this life, death, life, God finally manages to say what God is and what human is. It means: just as your words have you in them—your breath, spirit, power, hiddenness—so Jesus has God in him.

-Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

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