In this first week of Advent many of us are asking hard questions about race and justice. Many of us are trying to understand how we can repair the hurt and divisions in our nation and among our people. But others of us don’t seem to even be trying to understand the pain and view from the other side, more comfortable in a perceived sense of rightness.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John begins to tell us about Jesus by going back to the beginning of the beginning with language that sounds very much like a creation narrative. John goes to the beginning of the beginning to make Jesus central in the creative power and meaning of God’s presence and work to bring the world into being. In doing so John calls Jesus the Word, the logos of God. The Word was of God, with God and was God’s activity.
This is a special way to present Jesus. Though we may think it easy to relate to Jesus as a baby in Luke’s Gospel, a child and a human being, I think John is doing a cool thing by calling Jesus Word. I think John is teaching us about Jesus by reminding us about ourselves.
Is there another species on the planet using words as we use them? We have the singular gift of speech and word, written and spoken. We tell stories, our stories. We write our stories down and share them. You’re reading my blog. I can’t help myself, I have to craft some words and throw them out there in the hopes that someone else will read, comprehend and maybe even appreciate them.
Jesus is Word just as he is light and life. This is a connection point to for us to the divine. One of the beautiful movements of John’s passage is highlighted later in these verses, John 1:12-14…
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus entered creation to bring us into the divine. He came into our world to raise us out of it and into the world beyond us, born of divine will. He was begotten so that we might be begotten again into newness. He came here and identified with us so we could be identified anew into the thereness of heaven’s will. This is story, word and meaning.
Our words have power and meaning just as the Word in John’s introduction was also the life and light of all people. Jesus will later call us the “light of the world” in Matthew’s Gospel, further emphasizing our shared role in his story of bringing light and life to our planet, to our people.
We relate to Jesus not only in our shared human infancy, but in our shared words of light and life, a shared mission and purpose in creation. We are a blend of human and divine, as was Christ, made so by Christ, and now continuing the great work of Christ begun at the beginning of beginnings.
The Work of Advent.
I know we usually talk about the waiting of Advent, but John reminds us that we stand singularly among creation as co-light and co-life with the Word and the Word’s work in Advent. Even in the first week, with only one candle lit, and the light seeming so small, the work moves on. Even in a broken world, in broken times, when the darkness seems so strong and justice so elusive, our words are still so needed.
Shine your light. Speak life. Believe. Own your begottenness and know that the darkness runs before your light. The darkness cannot overcome or commandeer your light. Even if some don’t understand and even if your own don’t celebrate your light, it must still shine. Your words must still be life giving and creative.
This is an Advent Season to embrace our calling. In the face of whatever frustration or disappointment or darkness we see, shine on in life and love! And let’s make our Advent prayer one of purpose and joy to our God, Psalm 19:14 adapted with John 1…
“May all the words of our mouths be life and light in the world,
and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing and part of your great work,
oh God of Creation, our Hope and our Divine Parent!”
Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
We began this month of exploring Christian scripture to understand civility with Jesus, and we’ll end with Jesus. This is a very familiar passage to most anyone who grew up in church. Jesus loved to teach in symbols, and this is some of his best… it’s simple, we can relate to the content, and it inspires. We are called to be salt, seasoning the world for the better. We are to be light, a source of illumination and joy for those struggling to see. Amen and amen.
Jesus lays it all on the line for us in these simple words: we are salt, and we are light. No matter what you’re cooking, the salt becomes part of the dish, lost for any other purpose other than favoring and then never being seen again. Oh, it’s flavor is there, we know where the salt has gone… but that’s just it, the salt is gone. The dish remains. The dish is so much better for having been salted.
No matter the light source you choose, it burns up, it gives all it has and it’s gone. A lamp burns away it’s oil. A candle melts. A bulb eventually burns away it’s filament or it’s gases, batteries go dead… all lights on this earth end in their using. This is our calling. We are used up in service to this world. We are sent to make the world better for everyone else, and Jesus evens asks what we’re good for if we reject that calling! If we will not salt and we will not light, then what use do we have?
The word civil at the base of the word civility is a very fun study if you ever feel like digging in and chewing on it a while. It denotes both the meaning of responsible/polite behavior, but it also denotes this aspect of being a common member of society, a citizen. The two concepts are united in the word, both being a citizen and acting a citizen. Jesus does this with salt and light, both being and doing. Salt is our identity and our action. Light is both what we are and what we do. Our place in the world hinges on this calling… we exist in this capacity of purpose.
So what does all that mean? It means that I don’t salt the earth one day a week, or two days a week, or only when I choose to be salty. I must reflect on the needs around me and strive to be salt all the time. I must own the call to saltiness and pursue it with all my heart, mind and soul. It’s not just a thing I do on weekends or when there’s a Bible study. It’s in my walk, my talk, my laughter, my weeping, my falling, my failing, my dancing and my singing.
My light doesn’t have a on/off switch for my convenience. I am not choosing to be light for only those I have deemed worthy of the time or the effort. I am shining, shining on my worst day, my best day, in the rain, in the snow, in the pain and in the green of springtime joys. I am being what I am called to be, to the best of my ability and with all the joy of the call I can muster on any given day. And if we have come together to make a community like the one Jesus has described in the verses preceding this passage, in those amazing words we call “The Beatitudes,” then when my savor lessens and my light dims, it will be renewed in my kingdom fellowship with you. Together, we are called to be salt and light, never alone. Never alone.
I am salt with you. I am not salting the earth alone! I am light with you. I am not lighting anything by myself! Civil is not something I am or do alone. Civil exists within the community of the citizens! If we are to find a singular truth of civility in the teaching of scriptures then let it be the truth of our need for one another! I need you! I need you to myself be salt. I need you to myself be light. I need you, and that is why I am striving to be civil, to keep us in the bonds of love, mutual encouragement, sharing and growth.
Never alone. Thank you, God, I am not alone.