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The Word

November 26, 2014

The Word

First Sunday in Advent

John 1:1- 8

Today marks the beginning of the Christian celebration of Advent. But the word advent is not one that you will find in the Bible. For many churches though in the West today it is actually regarded as the start of the New Year. A new beginning.

This church season is all about anticipation. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival”. Advent is a reminder, in case you need one, that Christmas is coming! But advent is not merely the time to ensure that we have bought all the presents food and drink that we need. It is the period which leads us up to a celebration of the events of the birth of a child 2000 years ago, in a faraway land, in the most humble circumstances. A birth that at the time it could be said went ALMOST unnoticed.

But Advent as we shall see is not just a recognition of events that have occurred in the long past, but is a reminder of events which are yet to occur, which are just as eagerly anticipated, and which could come to be in our own lifetimes.

Advent is a reminder to consider why we celebrate Christmas. What is all the fuss about? What is the real reason for it? That there is a deeper truth behind it all. It isn’t all wrapping and tinsel. At its centre is a story of epic proportions, a birth of a baby who changed everything. Whatever we might think, the world would never be the same again.

To help us think about this this morning, we are going to enlist the help of the apostle John as he sets the scene to his own account of the life of Jesus. The New Testament gives us four gospels, 4 short biographies of an extraordinary life. Mark’s gospel, which is believed to be based on the eyewitness accounts of Peter, starts the story at the beginning of the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus.

Luke and Matthew go back further to the familiar events that we will soon be remembering. Mary & Joseph. The angel. The Roman census. The innkeeper. The shepherds. The angels. The wise men. The Nativity story.

But for John that is not enough, when he starts his account of the life of Jesus, he wants to go right back. For the birth of the baby is not the beginning. He takes us back to an altogether earlier point in time.

Forget Bethlehem 2000 years ago. John starts his account “in the beginning”.

The Word

In beginning was the Word. John does not start by talking about a teacher, or a baby born in a manger. He talks about the Word. If we are expecting to be immediately introduced to Jesus, we might be a bit confused. John wants to paint an altogether picture so initially he introduces us to the Word. The Word who was with God. There at the beginning of everything, before the creation of the world we are presented with God and the Word.

So who is the Word and why does John use this expression. This is the start of John’s gospel account of the life of Jesus. Before the Angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary, before Joseph was told in a dream that the baby’s name should be Jesus, back into eternity past this unique person was a reality. The birth in Bethlehem was not the beginning for him. It was merely the start of a new chapter.

John decides on the Word as an appropriate description. We use words. We need words. Words are our primary method of communication. To lose our ability to speak, to hear or to read are major handicaps to us. Sometimes we can even test ourselves by trying to express ourselves without words. Anyone for charades? It is quite a discipline to describe an object or a person without being allowed to speak. Some people find it impossible to keep their mouth shut.

So it is appropriate that when John thinks of Jesus he calls him the Word. For God is a God who wants to communicate with the people of this world. To demonstrate his love and his justice. We may not literally hear the voice of God speaking to us. But God has chosen his Son to be the method by which he communicates with us.

If people wanted to know what God was like they should look at Jesus.

If they wanted to know what he loved, they could listen to Jesus.

If they wanted to see what makes God angry they only had to watch and listen to his Son – the Word.

Today there are so many voices we can hear. In the world of politics, in the media, in the things we read watch and listen to. Sometimes we listen to anything but Jesus. But he is the Word. He is the one we need to listen to. He is the one that this world needs to hear.


 

God Word

Amazing as it is that John traces the history of his teacher back to the beginning, back to the presence of God, he takes us even further. Not only was the Word with God. But he also WAS God. The baby who is born in such lowly circumstances, the young carpenter, the teacher who confronted the religious, the great healer was very much human and yet so much more than human. He is eternal and divine. He can claim the highest authority.

There are those who would seek to tell us that Jesus was just a good man. John doesn’t buy that idea at all. He sets his stall out immediately. My Jesus is God. There are those who will tell us that it is nonsense to talk about God being one God and yet 3 people in one. Father Son & Holy Spirit. But that is exactly what John claims for Jesus.

Word Alive

Jesus there at the beginning. Involved in the very creation of this world. Architect and builder. Of all creation. Of all creatures. Without him nothing was made. He has ultimate being and power. And he made us. If this world had a label on it, it would have his name on it. Our maker’s name is on us. We are his pride and joy. His possession. We are not our own. He should rightly have a say in what we do with our lives. He will understandably want us to care for his world.

All life proceeds from him. In him was life. He had the very means of giving life to whatever or whoever he chose. He had the ability not just to be a carpenter, not just to make pleasing objects, but to breathe life itself into his world, his creatures, his people. Later he would say “I am the way, the truth and the LIFE.

We are not told how the world was created. Whether it involved hard work and great effort. What we are told is that God spoke “Let there be light!” and there was light. It is almost as if he just had to speak things into being. He said the Word.

Word Alight

As well as being life the Word is said to be light. So when God said “let there be light” he wasn’t dependent on some outside power source. The light was there. The light of men. In the beginning Genesis describes the darkness but God brings the light.

When we see light and goodness in the world today, where does it come from? So much of the time this world seems like a dark place. We switch on the television and there seems to be so much bad news. Unspeakable things done by one human being to another. There is a feeling of helplessness as we hear about the latest acts of terrorism, the escalation of another war, another natural disaster. How we need the light that Jesus brings. How we as his followers need to reflect his light into our families, our neighbourhoods and our world. Jesus, the word, the creator – he is light for he is all that is good.

As I said earlier though the birth of Christmas child seems almost to have gone unnoticed. Some astrologers from the east. A group of shepherds in a field. But this was not even a big state occasion. As the wise men discovered he was not born in a palace. He was not all over the news. And after the initial events we hear almost nothing more for maybe 30 years, when a young rabbi announces himself on the scene, with a motley crew of disciples.

John says “the Light shone in the darkness”. The words that follow have two potential meanings, both of which ring true.

The darkness could not understand him. That was certainly often true. Jesus was frequently misunderstood. His light was not welcome.

Secondly though it could mean that the darkness could not overcome the light. There was something in the quality of that light that could not be dimmed. And even when ultimately they thought they had snuffed out that light, it shone again 3 days later. The light of Jesus will triumph even in the darkness today, if we will allow it to.

People get ready

John then introduces us to another character. His name is John. This is not John talking about himself. This is the colourful preacher, John the Baptist. John seems to anticipate his readers may draw some wrong conclusions here, so we are told that John is not the Light. The writer would shortly reveal Jesus to be the Word the Light and the Life. But before that we have John the Baptist. He is a man with a mission. He has come to be a witness to the light. He has come to prepare the way for the main attraction.

Getting ready. And that of course is what Advent is about. Getting ready for the arrival. Of a baby. But with the knowledge of who that baby is and what he has come to do. The knowledge that he and only he – the Word – can bring God to us and us back to God.

There is so much of course to prepare when it comes to Christmas, but we need to be prepared too to find that space to remember, to look back at the events of that first arrival. When God steps into a human body and joins the human race. He who is the very source of life, who is God without limitation becomes dependent upon a young mother. Vulnerable to the rage of a baby murdering king. Who experiences loneliness and rejection. A man who faces all the challenges and temptations that are common to us. And yet lives a perfect life. A God who allows himself, the maker of all, to be taken by his prize creations and nailed to a cross – a criminals death. Only to rise again conquering sin and death. That’s what we remember.

Back to the future

We don’t just look back in Advent though. We also look ahead. We look ahead to another arrival. For as Christians we are assured that Jesus is coming back. And John reminds us that he promises to come back to take his followers to be with him – in a place that he has been preparing.

For Jesus is the life of men. And that life is eternal. And we are promised that life is in a place where there is no sun or moon, because only one light is needed there. The light of Jesus himself. That light will never be overcome. That life will be glorious.

And so we look ahead. With the challenge that Jesus calls us to be ready. For that time is unknown he says, even to him. His promise “Behold I am coming soon”.

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From → Christianity

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