John 1:1–4 (NIV)
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.
We tend to mark time with new beginnings, the start of a new day, the changing of a season, or the celebration of a new year. We do it with the littlest things, too, like the fresh start of a new semester or the stretching on of a new pair of socks. Somehow, these beginnings bring with them a bit of relief, a deeply satisfying sense that only a fresh start can bring as the old has gone and the new has come. Though we are still many days away from the dropping of a crystal-covered ball to mark a brand new beginning, we are, even now, dipping our toes into the freshness of a new season. Advent marks the beginning of a new thing in the life of believers. It signifies the changing of seasons and the breath of fresh air that is, quite simply, the possibility of a new thing. As others wait for the countdown of a clock to mark a new beginning that longs with hopeful anticipation for a better year ahead, we, people of the church, are already orienting ourselves to a new thing as we celebrate the season of Advent with the joyful anticipation of a new baby’s birth and the coming return of a King.
The funny thing is, this new thing isn’t new at all. Our text reminds us that the one whose hope-filled arrival will leave us singing “Joy to the World” is the same God who stretched the stars into the sky and pierced the darkness with a glorious light at the creation of the universe. This new child was with God, and somehow, he was already God in the beginning. As believers, we hold in tension the reality that God brought the “beginning” into existence, even as he already existed. As he unfolded a new thing, it came from the heart and mind of a God that has always been. The Scripture reminds us not just of how the beginning came to be but also who brought it together and where life truly begins. It goes on to say, “in him was life.” And with a spark of hopefulness and anticipation, the text says “that life was the light for all mankind.” The life that has always existed, the one that brought the universe into being, the one that enters in this Christmas, in him is life.
I know there would be more technical ways to evaluate the meaning of that word, life. We could define it by the pages of Webster’s Dictionary. We could do a multi-page word study that harkens back to seminary inductive Bible study classes. We could . . . but today I’m struck with this simple reality—life is . . . everything. We quite literally couldn’t function without it—without the operational systems required to breathe in and out every day. The ones that wake us up each morning and keep our hearts beating. Without life is literal death. Life is function.
But life is somehow more than our bodily function. It’s also the hope for living each day. It’s waking up with joyful possibility. It’s holding on, knowing that better days are coming after your worst ones. It’s the ability to enjoy the days and experiences your body operates within. Life isn’t just the operations, the functions of something; it’s also the fullness of possibility through those functions. Life is function and fullness; it’s form and formation. And this Word we celebrate in flesh, as the Advent season beckons a new beginning, is that everything. He is life. What dawns into the world this Christmas, within it, is life in function and fullness, a new thing held by the one who has always been. Somehow, the stringing together of these few verses, points us back to a beginning that ends up being everything we need, the function of life created in Jesus and the fullness of formation in him that gives our life meaning. He is the beginning and the end, in him is everything. That everything, that life, and the life that is found in him is our hope for today and the light of the world. Our hope, our everything, is found in the one who has always been.
I don’t know what darkness you’ve been walking through. But I’ve lived long enough to know that you’ve faced darkness and uncertainty that you hope to leave behind you in a new year. My invitation to you this Advent season is to not wait for the turn of a calendar to hope your hard days stay behind you but to find your light in the source of life in a new way, right now. His life is the light that can break through your darkness this Advent. I hope you’ll join me in discovering the power and possibility when that light breaks in.
Father God, Word made flesh, some of us are dragging our way into a new year, dazed and confused, disoriented, grabbing for signs of life and light, begging for the relief of a new beginning. Others are more hopeful but still looking for the fresh start of something new. We pray that this new beginning—this Advent Season—would point us back to what has always been in you. And to find in you the light that would illuminate our darkness. Where we have scattered ourselves around things, plans, and possibilities, would you recenter us on your eternal presence and the reality that all we need can be found there. Breathe into us that life, the life and light of Christ. Amen.
Take a moment to take a bit of an internal inventory. Have you been quietly (or blatantly) tracking the days till the end of the year, longing for the relief of a clean slate in a new calendar year? Do you feel like you’re dragging yourself to that finish line? If so, how might you shift your attention away from that worldly, chronological marker to find that relief in the start of the Advent season instead? That even now, you might feel the hopeful optimism of God doing a new thing as we begin to celebrate his arrival? If not (meaning, if you’ve not been dragging yourself across the finish line of 2022), where might you be looking for something that could be more deeply satisfied by looking to the light of Christ this Christmas? Either way, could this new beginning of the Advent season reorient you to the life and light you’ve been longing for?
For the Awakening,
P. S. Maybe consider reflecting on a song or two that reminds us of the life found in Christ, like “Great are you Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. You can find the YouTube video here.