Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background This week we make a grand jump out of our narrative to really celebrate that God is coming into the world in the form of human flesh. This passage doesn’t fit where we have been and yet it totally fits where we have been. With a solid foundation of feeling where people were in the midst of exile and just post exile as we delved into another section of Isaiah, we are ready for God to enter into the picture in full force. The people who read John also know what it means to yearn for God to come on the scene. With Christmas just a few days away, we are ready for light, transformation and God to be with us fully. A fully human and fully divine type of God.
For Christian faith, Advent ushers in the new year (not Jan. 1) which means that at this Sunday we switch from the Old Testament to really focus on a Gospel through Easter. This year we are working with John. This passage is usually preached in the season of Christmas but we have started John in Advent which makes more sense to me in some ways because of the writers focus on light entering the world, full of promise, hope and waiting for God to enter. This is different than the story of angels, wise guys, and animals (don’t worry we will still focus on that important story on Christmas Eve). Instead this passage gives us a different way of how God communicates to us.
This opening prologue is more like a hymn to our ears. Much like we sing along with Christmas carols and familiar tunes we can’t help but start to say the words to this beautiful piece of poetry. The writer does this on purpose. The writer of John wants us to connect to the pieces that remind us of our narrative. “In the beginning…” reminds us of Genesis and we might see other references to where we have come from. Jesus’ story begins here for the writer of John, all the way back to the previous story.
Then we learn how God communicates. God creates from word. God speaks into being. God creates with Word and out of that comes light and a human form. In fact in the Message version of this passage the scripture says that “God moves into the neighborhood.” Up until now, God has been trying to communicate with us on God’s terms and now God is going to connect with us in human terms. God with human form may be the only way that we can truly grasp a relationship with God. By beginning here we can see that all of Jesus life is about creating new life much like our prologue tells us comes from God. Jesus will re create relationship. Jesus will re create what it means to gain life.
As we approach the Christmas season, this passage becomes powerful for those in our midst wondering if there is anything actually there for them. God’s promise this day sets the stage for those who wander in because something in tradition has pulled them. Those are the ones who wonder if God can really connect to them today. If what John says is true then God is doing that over and over and over again. So let’s set the stage for the amazing story of a baby to come.
Quotes of the Week “It is now, at Advent, that I am given the chance to suspend all expectation…and instead to revel in the mystery.” ― Jerusalem Jackson Greer
“No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.” ― Paulo Coelho
“Light is creation. Darkness is the space necessary to create.” ― Erica Jasmin Cartaya
“The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.” – Frederick Buechner
John 1:1-18 (NRSV) 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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart,who has made him known.
Questions for the Week
Do you see this well known passage as an Advent passage?
Does it change your world that God becomes flesh out of word and light?
How would you translate that to others in our midst?