Advent Week Four

Advent Week Four

John 1:1-13 New English Translation (NET Bible)

The Prologue to the Gospel

In the beginning[a] was the Word, and the Word was with God,[b] and the Word was fully God.[c] The Word[d] was with God in the beginning. All things were created[e] by him, and apart from him not one thing was created[f] that has been created.[g] In him was life,[h] and the life was the light of mankind.[i] And the light shines on[j] in the darkness,[k] but[l] the darkness has not mastered it.[m]

A man came, sent from God, whose name was John.[n] He came as a witness[o] to testify[p] about the light, so that everyone[q] might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify[r] about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone,[s] was coming into the world.[t] 10 He was in the world, and the world was created[u] by him, but[v] the world did not recognize[w] him. 11 He came to what was his own,[x] but[y] his own people[z] did not receive him.[aa] 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name[ab]—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born[ac] by human parents[ad] or by human desire[ae] or a husband’s[af] decision,[ag] but by God.

John may have only been trying to tell how God came to the world as the Lord, Christ Jesus, when he started the poetry of his Gospel, but at Christmas, it is especially important to try see how much John wanted not only to explain to the people of Jesus’ time that he was God incarnate, the Messiah, but that he had been part of God…he was God, just in different form and had been there as part of God; from the beginning whenever and however that was.   Today we try to explain the unexplainable as best we can by saying that Jesus is one of three essences of God; Father, son and Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit).

But John tells that Jesus was the true light and the giver of life.  What could be more appropriate on Christmas day than to talk of the giver of life, that he came on his own but his own people, did not receive him.  John wants everyone to know that if you know his name and believe in him, you are born of God, ‘born again’ some say today, born of God and are God’s children.  It is just that simple. The message of Christmas is just that simple too.  A time of feeling and experiencing what God has always given and had available for us to feel and experience, God’s pure acceptance and love, just as we are and for who we are, even if we and God know we can always become better people in the future with God’s grace.

John’s words are mysterious to us but they are also, to me at least, the most truthful, because he is trying to explain part of something he knows about and understands, and yet is something he can’t explain fully.  I feel his embracement of the words he uses and yet the tension of not having better words, full and finished words, to speak with. He knows in his heart that Jesus is truth, and light, and a beautiful gift to behold, beautiful to be part of, just like Christmas.  Oh, yet, like that Christmas tree that I spend hours on in adorning, there is always a spot when I step back that looks bare or is not exactly having the right adornment on its branches, here and there.

There are things within our faith, as with any faith in the world, that cannot be fully explained, but when experienced for oneself, are beautiful and you know, just like the unconditional love of a father or mother, that are real. 

Ask anyone who has experienced what I call ‘extra love’; an unexpected giving or extravagant care from another person, physical care or spirit-lifting care, that occurred during the time of Christmas, and they will tell you of its special nature and the spirit of wonderment that comes with the generosity and spirit of brother and sisterhood.  They can tell you of a beauty that transformed, and informed them, during this season of celebrating Christ’s birth, or of what is most holy and sacred to them.  The mysteries around it are simply that…beautiful mysteries of love, light, and grace from God.

To many a wishful non-believer that I have come across; and there are a lot of Scrooges out there in the world; the fact that we can’t easily see how certain things could have been real or be truly fact, are huge stumbling blocks.  Yet we only learn over time more about how people thought, wrote, and expressed things in the past, for example, and it can change the world of thought when we do. 

For example, it was not a stumbling block in the first centuries of our Christianity’s history that Mary was called a virgin.  It actually was not at all a stumbling block at all until the last few centuries, not because people did not know enough science, but because  we, in the churches of the last 2-3 centuries have taught it according to our own meaning for the word in Greek that has been translated to “virgin” and not “young woman”. 

Here is the reason why, as taken from the Roman Catholic Church; the branch of Christianity that perhaps holds closest to their hearts the virgin Mary. Virgin, in the way we think of it today and most recently, is NOT how it was taken as a word when Isaiah prophesied, nor when it was repeated in the Gospel of Mark, some 600 years later…

“In the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah first tells us “a virgin will bear a child” (Isa. 7:14). The Hebrew word, which was translated to virgin, is actually almah. When properly translated, almah doesn’t mean virgin but “young girl.” As the text was translated into Matthew’s Greek, parthenos is used, which usually is understood as “virgin.” Throughout the ages “virgin,” rather than young girl, became integral to the description and understanding of Mary.” (That is our doing, I would say, not God’s!)

“In the cultures of North Africa, Greece, Rome, and Turkey, where the events of the New Testament took place, the word “virgin” had a different meaning than it does today. Rather than having physical or moral connotations, it meant autonomy. It was a psychological quality signifying freedom and independence. In addition, a virgin birth often signaled a son’s divinity. In other words, gods were born of virgins. Virginity is important to understanding Jesus’ birth as the son of God because it told the people in the way they would best understand it that the child was conceived by divine origin rather than earthly. A miracle was taking place. (A miracle of God, I would emphasize!)Perhaps even more important, Mary’s virginity shows us that she used her free will as she said yes to God’s request. She gave full consent to making the Incarnation possible.

The article goes on to say, “The importance of Mary’s virginity as a symbol of purity developed at the time of Saint Augustine, when the church began to emphasize the difference between the body and spirit. Matter (the body) was directly connected to our sexuality and was equated with sin. Mary’s virginity emphasized her lack of sexuality and therefore portrayed her as sinless.” https://www.uscatholic.org/church/2011/09/why-do-we-say-mary-was-ever-virgin

The truth, the light, the ways of God; sinless, pure, full of love.  Often we just melt it all down statement and people just say, “God is love” and that is all there is to it.  Well, our brother, John, or whomever wrote in his name pseudonymously, knew this fact, my friends.  He knew it and he came to live the message of the Good News of the new and eternal covenant between God and humankind that began that night so long ago.  He lived it until he died in exile, we believe, as the only disciple not murdered for his beliefs, but just as strong in them.  The miracle was announced by angels it was said that another miracle of God had come to us to tell us that God is with us, God is looking over us, and that peace to the world; not in a worldly or earthly manner; had come.

Luke 2:8-14 KJV

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

May we take the spirit of Christmas just in that same way: knowing the miracle of Christ is the beginning of understanding, in the fullest of ways, just how much we are to go out into the world, with love of God being of utmost in our hearts and to love others the same way.  If this is done, the Lord will be happy and we will be at peace…with good will towards all humankind.  Amen.

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