Wednesday of Advent I: John 1
It’s called external processing, but you probably just call it ‘thinking out loud.’ It’s where it’s helpful to take an idea and talk it out (not leave it in only your brain). I do this often, sometimes with rather embarrassing results. But it turns out I’m in good company. God is an external processor; he thinks out loud, even when he is speaking to himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” So God has a word with himself; he is speaking to himself. Father and Son and Holy Spirit are having an eternal conversation, (a trialogue we might call it).
Now that would be enough. God the Holy Trinity is not lacking anything; he does not create the world out of loneliness, because he is never alone. But you know how it goes, when three persons sit down to have a good conversation, often things begin to happen. When people gather themselves, say, around a fire, they tend to sit back and have a word with each other, start thinking out loud, and anything could happen: inventions are invented; goals are set; the future is imagined, discoveries are made; problems are solved and people are knit together with words.
It all starts with a conversation, and then the conversation grows. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…All things were made through him…” So this Word, this conversation, is creative: it makes things (good things, everything) happen.
In John’s gospel, he emphasizes the conversation between Jesus and his Father. All of John chapter 17 is a Jesus’ prayer to the Father, and in chapter 12, at the climactic moment when Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” he immediately proceeds to pray.
But John also shows us how we as disciples are welcomed into this divine conversation. In John 12, after Jesus’s prayer, and after the Father’s thunderous reply, Jesus tells the crowd that the voice has come for their sake. John 17 is preceded by John 14 where Jesus says he will not leave his disciples as orphans (without a father to talk to), but that he is in them and they are in him, and that he is in his Father. All, Father, Son, Spirit, and Church, are intertwined, united, and they can speak openly to one another. We can have a word with God, and he with us. He has invited his disciples into the divine family.
It is interesting that Jesus promised not to leave the disciples as orphans. It turns out that, for children, one of the most important things for them is conversation. When a young child is not spoken to, when he lives more or less without conversation, it becomes more difficult for him to relate to others and to speak for himself. In extreme cases, where orphans are abandoned and more or less left alone, even if they are then taken in by loving families, living together with others can be a constant challenge. They struggle to find their place in the conversation.
Our God does not leave us as orphans. He used to speak to his people of old by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. That is, he has welcomed us even closer, into his own family through his own Son. So he is always speaking to us, and always listening to us, and also always among us. He is always engaging us in conversation. (Remember this when your prayers falter: God, your Father, is hanging on your every word.)
He speaks with us, and also through us. Parents to children, the mature to the young, the wise to the troubled: this is how God has created his church. This is the life of Jesus: “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” Jesus shines through his people, his body, his church.
We went to a pastors’ conference a while back with a speaker who explained how he encouraged the retirees at his church to write letters to the twenty-somethings of his church. Those in their twenties can be rather difficultly to keep track of these days. They have left the families they grew up in and gone off to school, or work or to find their own way. But many haven’t yet married and made their own families just yet. It can be a disorienting time for them; they can loose their way.
But after receiving these letters, our speaker said, even years later, they held onto them. They became in some way treasured possessions, mementos of the people who reached out to them, who welcomed them into the conversation.
This is the sort of light which shines from Jesus Himself. It shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out. So when it’s you who is in the darkness, when the silence is overbearing, come to where the conversation is. Come to where the light of Christ is. Call someone; reach out to us. This church exists so that you can have a word with God, a place and a people who have been welcomed into the Conversation which created the world.
When Christmas comes, as it soon will, we will have light to spare. In Advent, we intentionally hold ourselves back; we light candles only one at a time, and we gather ourselves around just one fire. It reminds of the darkness which surrounds us. And it reminds us to gather ourselves together. Jesus has come to speak to us: to forgive us with a word, to give us more than the prophets could have hoped for, to bend his ear and hear our prayers.
So even in the darkness, seek for, flee to, rejoice in, the light of Christ. The light of Christ is the light which will not be put out. The darkness will not overcome it, and his gracious word—with God, and with us—will never end.