Happy new year! Wow, what a ride, right? The presents have all been wrapped and unwrapped. The families have come and gone. Some of us have even packed up the baubles and bows; the tinsel and the tree. Those of us who haven't are cringing thinking about how much work that will be. (It always seems easier getting it out of the box, instead of putting it back.) The ball has dropped, most of us have made our resolutions and, God willing, we are going to keep them this year. The new year signifies a new beginning. It is not the beginning but it is a beginning. It is a time we can wipe our slate clean and start over. Our potential is limitless.
The John scripture is kind of the same thing. It isn't the beginning but it is a beginning, and a beautiful one at that. There are many who believe the opening verses of John were used in the early church and sung. Understandable because the poetry bleeds through, even when read in English. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It's beautiful. I see it as a prelude to a symphony. It is an opener to the greatest story ever told: the story of Jesus. Yes, we have reached quiet a few conclusions: the old year is over; the consumer Christmas is over, but this scripture tells us, something isn't over. Something is about to begin... again.
This story starts way back in Genesis, in the beginning when everything was created. It wasn't a creation whipped up at a work station or even put together with caring hands. All God had to do was speak and it all came together. “God said, 'Let there be light!' and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) All God needed was the Word and it all came to be. We all know the story, God saw everything that was made, and indeed, it was very good. (Gen 1:31) So God rested. Yet something happened. Within all the goodness God created, we started messing it up. It is that sneaky thing called freewill. It was one of those wonderful gifts God gave us, but sometimes we misused it. The best laid plans can be fulfilled or destroyed with freewill. Cane killed Abel, Abraham lied about his wife, brothers sell one of their own into slavery, a country puts an entire people into servitude... from creation to the end of the Hebrew bible the story is continually about the people of God messing up and God speaking forgiveness to the people.
Yet, there was a problem. The people had begun to grow deaf. The word that was spoken eons ago and brought life to the lifeless and hope to the hopeless could no longer be heard. Also, the words that had been spoken by God in the past had begun being misused by the very people God had called to lead. Something had to happen. Something had to change.
The answer was a reboot. Before Michael Bay rebooted the Transformers, Raja Gosnell rebooted the Smurfs, or J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek- God rebooted the Creation. Reboots retell a classic story but in a way that makes it more accessible for a new generation. So how does this scripture in John become accessible to us in a way Genesis 1 cannot? The answer is sight.
I had said the people had become deaf to the Word of God. They could no longer hear the good news, the gospel. When you wish to communicate with someone who is deaf, what do you do? You write it down, use closed captions or sign language. In other words, you take advantage of another sense: sight. God, in our deafness, took the Word and made it visible. The Word became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. God was ready to conduct a symphony but this symphony would be more than the song played through the ages. The theme of this composition would include a visible explanation of the crescendos and diminuendos. This would be a Fantasia of the creation story. That is why Jesus did not come to replace the law but to fulfill it. He is the sign language for the souls who cannot hear God in their heart. The God who has been working behind the scenes since the beginning used Jesus Christ to take center stage. But, instead of allowing the spotlight to shine on him he took the light and shined it into the darkness.
What is the darkness? The darkness lies in each and every one of us. We all have moments we regret; moments we wish we could take back. One of the hardest truths about life is we cannot repeat our past. We only get one chance at this rat race and inevitably we all fall short. No one is perfect. Our tie to creation is our tie to that darkness.
From creation God pulled out all that was good. Many early theologians thought the earthly was the center of sin. They were wrong. Take time and read Genesis 1. The light is good. The earth and sea are good. The plants are good. The sun and moon and stars are good. The birds and fish are good. All the creatures of the earth are good. God saw everything that had made, including us, and it was supremely good. From God's Word the creation was put forward, as if on exhibit. It wasn't something to be put on a dusty old shelf and hidden from view. The creation was something to be admired and taken care of. That is the truth about goodness. It is not from creation that badness comes from. No, badness comes from the darkness.
It is when we choose not to act. It is when we bury our issues instead of dealing with them. If creation becomes the fertile field where goodness can grow, the darkness becomes the incubator where our wrong choices can fester into something worse. Wars are not started in the sunlight of truth and justice, but the damp dark recesses of ignorance and complacency. They don't just happen over night. The bad things that can come from the darkness needs time to grow. Goodness can blossom in mere moments- all it needs is a word. (Thank you, bless you, please... just to name a few.) Badness takes time to grow into something dangerous. Yet, it seems like those are the fields we spend most of our time cultivating.
When the people are living in darkness and are already deaf to God's magnificent word... they need something tactile to pull them out: water. Water, Helen, water. Yes, what was Helen Keller's first word and first introduction to a life bigger than she originally knew, is our first introduction to the light. Through John the Baptist we are thrown into the water to wake up! Wake up and see what God has done!
In the form of Jesus, God came to obliterate the darkness. We are no longer allowed to be complacent and ignorant. From the Gospel of John we get a reboot of creation that is not only 3D but 4D. God isn't just on the big screen sharing the story but sitting next to us in the theater, sharing the popcorn and enjoying the ride. Yes, a prelude to a symphony. Can you hear it? It is a new year and a new beginning, if you listen carefully you can hear God's wind section warming up. If you pay attention you can hear the strings beginning to tune. True, today isn't the beginning but it is a beginning. See, the John scripture was the prelude. We are living in the symphony. God has given us the flashlight to shine into the darkness. God has shown us how to speak to the spiritually deaf. But freewill, freewill can either bring God's master plans to fruition or destroy it.
Don't live in the darkness. Don't turn that flashlight off. God gave us Christ to shine that light into the world. Do you hear it? The grand conductor has prepped the orchestra and is ready to play. Shine your light into the darkness. The darkness will not be able to overcome it. Join the symphony this new year. There is a space just for you. God is waiting.
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