Each year, dictionaries will monitor the different political and socio-economic trends of the past year to determine the word of the year. For 2016, the words were post-truth (Oxford), Brexit (Collins), surreal (Merriam Webster) and xenophobia (dictionary.com). The words for 2017 have just been announced and they are youthquake (Oxford), fake news (Collins), feminism (Merriam Webster) and complicit (dictionary.com).
What is the word of the year for you? Would the word be a result of what you have gone through? Or how you hope the next year will be? Or would the word be that which holds you steady no matter what you have to go through?
If you asked the Apostle John for his input, he would tell you that there is only one Word for him: Jesus. And that would remain the same. Not just for one year. But for every year to come.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3 ESV
In introducing Jesus as the Word, John opens his gospel with “In the beginning was the Word…”, paralleling Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…”. He deliberately replaces ‘God’ with ‘the Word’. John cannot make it any clearer: the Word is God, Jesus is God.
The Jews would not be unfamiliar with the phrase the word of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Genesis 15:1, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. In 1 Samuel 3:21, God revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. I used to read these verses and imagined a bunch of words flashing and appearing before these men in cool, animated computer graphics, no less. How wrong I was. It is only many years later that I would learn that the Word of the Lord is God Himself. More than just spoken oracles, prophecies or the recorded Law (or the Bible as we know it), the Word is the very Person of God, revealed in the person of Jesus.
But what about the Gentiles who had no idea of the Hebrew Scriptures? Here comes the ingenuity of John, as led by the Holy Spirit.
To the Hellenistic mind, the Word – logos – is a power that created the entire world, the cosmos. More than just a linguistic device to illustrate something, or a string of descriptives to communicate a thought, the Greeks understood logos as a reasoning, a principle, a wisdom. It is this logos that created the world and holds all things together. John was declaring to the Greeks that this Word is not just a power or a force, not just a concept or a good idea, but a person, the very Person of God Himself, Jesus. Everything can be explained because creation is the result of the logos, of divine logic.
But that is not all …
“In him (the Word) was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5 ESV
There is life in the Word. If He created the world which we live in, then He also created humanity that lives in this world. That’s us! We exist because of the Word. But we were not created merely to exist in our short span of life on earth. The Apostle will reveal in John 10:10 that the Word came not just to give us existential life but that in Him, we might also have abundant life! And in believing, receiving and knowing the Word who is eternal (John 17:3), we also enter into the promise of eternal life.
Consequently, it is in appropriating this life that is in the Word that results in a light that shines, that overcomes darkness! Put another way, you can’t hope to shine any light of truth, righteousness or revelation without first experiencing the life that is found only in the Word and the True Light, Jesus. The world operates by a flawed logic and by fake lights. Don’t be fooled or distracted by these that appear bright and attractive. The logic of the kingdom of God often runs contrary to the logic and ways of the world. The ways of the kingdom will almost always seem illogical to one who does not know the Word for himself.
This should not be a surprise at all for the kingdom of God is upside-down and counter-cultural. And yet, it is the King of this everlasting kingdom who will have both the first and the final word. And rightly so, for Jesus is, after all, the Word, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last , ((Rev 1:8,11,17; 21:6; 22:13). Long after all the words of the years have come and gone, the Word remains. There is no other Word, because there is no other God.
At the end of 2018, another set of words will be announced as the words of the year. As descriptive as these may be, they only record the plight of a world that is lost in darkness, in need of the True Light. These only paint a picture of humanity trying desperately to make sense of its own logic, as if the coining of new words and expressions will help us gain a better understanding of ourselves. Truly, apart from the Word, apart from Jesus, our attempts of reasonings and wisdom all fall apart, for it is only He who holds all things together.
What is your word of the year? More accurately, Who is your word of the year, and the years to come? Don’t wait for another year to go by before deciding. At the same time, there is no need to chase for yet another prophetic word for the year to come.
As for me, I’m going with the beloved apostle who beheld the glory of the Word that became flesh (John 1:14), who personally experienced the Word of life (1 John 1:1). Like John, Jesus is my Word of the year, and for every year He graces me with breath and abundance on earth. And even when my time is done, He remains the timeless Word for me, for all eternity.
Make Jesus your Word, your God, your Life, your True Light, your Wisdom.