By: Landon Collins
The first time I paid attention to the beginning of John’s Gospel during the season of advent was when I read it at a Christmas Eve service in 2001. It has become a familiar passage for me over the last 17 years and perhaps for you as well. It is commonly read during this time of year. But the beauty of Scripture is that regardless of how familiar you are with a text, and no matter how often it is read, the Spirit continues to reveal new life.
Last week at L.I.F.E Together we gathered as a community and listened to John 1 out loud. (If you have some time, I invite you to listen) Listening to someone else read Scripture aloud allows us to hear words and phrases in new ways. Listening to Scripture can often give us insights that we might miss if we were reading through it. As we listened together there was a phrase that caught my attention…
“In him was life…” (John 1:4)
There was something about the sound of those words that spoke deeper than when I read the passage earlier in the day, especially the word “life.” I believe there is a difference between saying Jesus is life and Jesus is a way of life. If Jesus is simply a way of life, then we have reduced the Gospel to some propositional statements and following Jesus to certain behaviors. Jesus is far more. Jesus is life! Sometimes we miss out on life if we are focused on solely a way of life. It seems that’s what the Pharisees were guilty of, and maybe even some others. John goes on to say that many people didn’t even recognize life. (John 1:10)
Why don’t we recognize life? I am sure there are several reasons but one that struck me on Sunday was simply darkness. During Advent, we recognize the darkness. We sit in the darkness eagerly awaiting the light to show up, but it seems the darkness is a little bit darker than I remember. Not for me personally, but for the world that surrounds me. A dark world would have been a familiar experience for the prophet Jeremiah. As Lance mentioned Sunday, all but four chapters of the book of Jeremiah speak to the darkness around him, but those four chapters offer hope, light, life.
In his sermon Lance drew our attention to some headlines contrasting the darkness and light in our world today. It seems really easy to find headlines about pain, brokenness, division, tragedy, disaster, & even death. It’s harder to find stories of hope, stories of life. But they are there. You just need to look hard enough. I’ll make it a bit easier for you. Check out goodnewsnetwork.org. But stories of life aren’t just found in the headlines and online they happen all around us and within us. What stories do you see?
Advent begins the Liturgical year. This year I will be looking for life. Each day I am looking for places where life is springing up, and not just new babies being born. I’m looking for life that God is creating in me, around me, and around the world. It’s a choice I hope to make daily. I’m looking for stories like the one of the gentleman paying for my order at Lowes when I forgot my wallet this past weekend. I’m looking for stories like the one about a Chestnut Grove formation group giving themselves away during advent….
“We blessed a couple in our group with cash to help out with their new foster child. We thought they might could use a few things for her. Sunday, we took a large basket of supplies to Lorraine Williams for her ministry, such as cards, stamps markers and also stuff for her like baked goods etc. Several class members sat with her for about an hour. We are going to serve at Loaves and Fishes in smaller groups during the week. We are partnering with the fruit Co-op to help a family that they have identified in the community for Christmas. We are taking meals to our newest member Leo Jeffries parents as well. These are just some of the things we are involved in over advent season.
And even stories like this one that comes from Nigeria, a country I grew up in. It’s a story about a young lady give life to the street kids in Lagos. Each of these stories is about life. And paying attention gives life.
I’m not suggesting that a man paying for my order at Lowes accomplishes the same thing Jesus did, but there is something important about paying attention to those stories. Later in John Jesus would say, “The thief comes to steal and destroy life.” And while that is true, that should not be our focus. Our focus is on the One who brings life and is life. Every where Jesus went he brought life to people. Jesus continues to be life and give life. May we pay attention to the places that life is popping up around us, even in the midst of darkness.