Saturday, December 10

Advent 2011

The Word became flesh.  What a breath-taking statement!  The Word became man and pitched his tent with us.  As Clarence Jordan writes in the Cotton Patch Gospel of John:  "The Idea became man and moved in with us.  We looked him in the face - the face of an only son whose father is full of kindness and integrity."

             This is the moment around which all history, all time turns.  The long arm of heaven reached down to us, and God's great love became flesh and dwelt among us.  Astonishing.  As the distinguished Southern writer Reynolds Price has said, John's Gospel is "demanding."  If Advent lasted all year, we still wouldn't have enough time to ponder this staggering idea.

Scholars debate the authorship of these words.  I'm no scholar, but here's what I believe.  John is inspired.  John is the work - at least largely - of an old man's vision.  An eyewitness, an observer of the narrative he records, John remembers through the lens of lived faith.  He recalls vividly the brief, packed years when he followed Jesus along the dusty roads of Judea.  He speaks through the lens of lived discipleship following the Crucifixion and Resurrection when he traveled who knows where, apparently ending in Ephesus.

Like others who've visited Ephesus, I find it easy to think of him there - as both tradition and evidence suggest.  It was a large city in his day, second only to Rome.  An ancient city even then, a busy seaport, a cultural crossroads.  Here John taught, preached, ministered, faced challenges - perhaps danger and death-threats.  He labored, he believed, his faith matured.  He nurtured a strong congregation of early Christians, one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  And then near the end of his life, he or someone close to him set down his account.  He looked back over the long years with startling clarity and understanding to the coming of God in human form.  So startling, in fact, that he doesn't bother with details of the birth narrative.  No angels, no wise men, no stable.  Instead, John tells us what it means.

Incarnation.  Intercession.  Intersection.  God with us.  Jesus is the Word, the organizing and creative principle from the beginning.  Not just the "reason for the season" but the Reason, period.  And the Word is with us now.  As Clarence Jordan says, "the light shines on in the darkness...."   For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)  This Christmas may the scales fall from our eyes. May the demand of these dazzling words grab hold of our minds and hearts and shake us to our core.  May we be transformed.  God is here among us!

- Ashley Williams

 

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