Grace and Peace to you, brothers and sisters in Christ!
We have come to think of Advent as a time of preparation for the birth of Emmanuel – “let every heart prepare him room.” But the time of Advent is also about a cosmic struggle of light breaking through to a dark world. We’re used to hearing, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed, but we should also be hearing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This light in the darkness is still breaking through into our world today. It’s a bright flame in a world that will not be illuminated fully until Christ comes again.
We often miss the ideas that are presented in the John text during Advent because we focus on that night in Bethlehem. We set our sights on the baby born to Mary and Joseph in the stable. We worship on Christmas Eve and hear the story about Mary and Joseph’s journey and of the angels giving glad tidings of good joy to the shepherds, but we miss the Scripture text that is appointed for Christmas Day. In each year of the three-year Revised Common Lectionary cycle, that text is John 1: 1-14.
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.
Certainly there is joy and the birth of a long-promised King and Messiah in this text from John, but the text also presents a picture of rejection in a world darkened by sin and evil. When Advent becomes overwhelmed by the joy of Jesus’ birth, we forget that God had to send Jesus because the world was in such a state that we could not save ourselves from the darkness. On our own, could not overcome the evil in the world. We needed God to save us. And we still need God to save us. Jesus’ first coming was good news. Jesus’ second coming is good news, too. It is the fulfillment of what was started on the morning in Bethlehem. The culmination of the Christmas story is that “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”
Blessings for a thoughtful Advent season,