Excerpted from The Heart of the Work, an Advent Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
John 1:(1-9), 10-18
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 mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 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.
(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
Here we are, it’s 2021. We’ve gotten through an unusual holiday season, where hopefully you’ve found a way to immerse yourself in celebration. In any year, looking forward is a combination of anticipation and anxiety. For many, fatigue and confusion is added this year. As we turn to scripture, it’s interesting that on this Sunday each year we explore the first chapter of John. Last year you might have focused on discovering the gifts God is offering you. Next year you could be considering the kind of life that results when we live by these gifts. But this year, amidst the chaos we’re experiencing, perhaps we should focus on the obstacles that prevent us from receiving those gifts. Gifts that include a vision of unity in a world of division, and a moment of clarity about who and whose we are in the midst of confusion.
John’s gospel was written to a community in conflict between those who affirmed that Jesus was the Messiah and the Jewish authorities who disputed that notion. There was tension and excommunication, prompting John to focus on the internal life of the community. This would account for us finding Jesus portrayed in John’s writing as a source of comfort, healing, and support. What I love about the focus on this Second Sunday after Christmas is the invitation to explore the blessing placed within us. It celebrates the God who is at work in us and around us. We are forgiven, lavished with grace, taught the mystery, given an inheritance, so that we might live for the praise of God. It is about living a life of praise, of celebration for what God has done and is doing in us. I hope these are the words you need to hear today. We live in a culture that revels in both fear and instant gratification. I invite you to remind yourself that you are to live your faith. Not just think about it, but to live it fully and wholeheartedly. Sit with this list of blessings and consider what obstacles in your life prevent you from finding comfort, healing, and support through the forgiveness and grace born to us once again in this season. Let us live each day in celebration of mystery and hope.
May the blessing of the deep mystery we name God –
Source of life, love and hope,
be with you this day and all your days.