First Sunday After Christmas, Year B: John 1:1-18: The Word and the Light

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You can see all the lectionary readings for the First Sunday after Christmas, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

I’ve always thought of John as the intellectual Gospel, with its more complex theology and imagery than the synoptic gospels. This is evident from the very beginning of John, which starts at the very beginning of time (whereas Matthew and Luke start with the birth of Jesus and Mark starts with John the Baptist).

The first verses are beautiful and poetic even in a simple translation:

Before the world began, the Word was there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was there with God in the beginning. Everything was made through him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was a light for the people of the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not defeated it.

John 1:1-5 (Easy to Read Version)

I found something about this in Evolution of the Word by Marcus J. Borg:

What John says about Jesus and the Word is sometimes misunderstood. For many Christians, Jesus and the Word of God have become identical and interchangeable terms. Thus they understand John’s opening words to mean, In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.” But that is not what John says. What was in the beginning with God was the Word/Wisdom of God. But Jesus wasn’t there in the beginning; that which became flesh in him was. Jesus is the embodiment and revelation of what can be seen of the Word/Wisdom of God in a human life.

Borg also says that the “‘word of God’” in Judaism is closely associated with the wisdom of God, and that God created the world through wisdom, wisdom spoke through the prophets, and wisdom (like the Spirit of God) permeates everything.

Then the Gospel introduces John the Baptist–reiterating what we know from the other Gospels–that John was not the light but came to tell people about the light (Jesus).

So Jesus is both the light and the Word and the passage goes on to say that “the Word became a man and lived among us.” The imagery is all beautiful and moving. For me it cuts straight to the heart. And the deeper theology is also at the end of the passage: “The only Son is the one who has shown us what God is like. He is himself God and is very close to the Father.

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B: Luke 1:26-38: Mary the Willing Servant

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You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Today’s Advent reading is the very start of the Christmas story–the angel Gabriel comes to young Mary in Nazareth. Gabriel tells Mary she is very special to God. She is surprised and confused. I mean, who wouldn’t be?

The angel tells her not to be afraid, because God is pleased with you. He tells her she will be pregnant and have a baby boy, whom she will name Jesus. I love this part because my middle son has played Gabriel twice in our church’s Christmas pageant, and he does an almost British accent and rolls the R when he says grandly, He will be grrrrreat and will be called the Son of the Most High; and of his kingdom there will be no end!

Mary asks how it will happen since she is still a virgin and the angel tells her the power of God will cover her. The baby will be called the Son of God. He also tells her that her cousin Elizabeth, considered too old to bear a child, is also pregnant, because God can do anything.

 

Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let this thing you have said happen to me!” Then Gabriel leaves her.

I love this story. It’s supernatural but also very human. A young woman having an out-of-this-world experience. She’s shocked but she’s also accepting. I hope that in every encounter with God we can also be so willing to be servants. Cherish the mystery but be willing to say yes to it, too.

 

First Sunday of Advent, Year B: Mark 13:24-37: Be Ready

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You can see all the lectionary readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Mark was written around 70 C.E., which is the year that the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple while crushing the Jewish revolt. Mark therefore, was written during a time of war and trouble, and this is probably why it has an apocalyptic theme to a lot of it. That’s true of this passage. It’s good to keep in mind the setting in which it was written as we read some of its dark portents.

Jesus starts in this passage by quoting an apocalyptic passage from Isaiah:

“During the days following that time of trouble,

‘The sun will become dark,
    and the moon will not give light.
The stars will fall from the sky,
    and everything in the sky will be changed.’[a]

“Then people will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will send his angels all around the earth. They will gather his chosen people from every part of the earth.

Mark 13: 24-27 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Then he tells a metaphor about a fig tree–we can tell summer is near by the green and soft branches–and so also will people know when the end of time is near. But on the other hand, he also says no one knows when exactly that time will be. Only God the Father knows, so we must always be ready.

He reiterates with a story of a man leaving his home and giving his servants each special jobs to do. He tells them to be ready at any time for his return. In the same way, the followers of Jesus must also always be ready.

I admit that I find apocalyptic scripture difficult to read and write about. I don’t always know what to make of it. I know what I was taught growing up in various evangelical churches, but not what to make of it now as an adult. So I just focus on the “be ready” part. We can always be ready to meet Jesus, whether that’s in some glorious return or in our day-to-day where we should be ready to meet Jesus in our fellow human beings–doing good and being a light to the world. As this passage is for the First Sunday of Advent, it is appropriate to be ready to meet Christ, who is coming at Christmas.