1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe him. 8 He himself was not the light but he came to testify to the light.
These verses from the opening prologue of the Gospel of John are embedded in our hearts. We hear them, and their resonance of Genesis (In the beginning…) and our hearts are filled with joy. We think of candles being lit, carols being sung, the scents of fir and cedar and the warmth of family and friends gathered all ‘round.
To me, this was a near universal experience until one Advent, a fellow church member came up to me to say that she felt left out of this experience because of the image of light overcoming the darkness. As a person of color, she felt excluded, and frowned upon. It broke my heart.
So we talked together about her experiences, and also about the promises of this passage. (I learned a lot). We talked of Jesus, the Emmanuel taking on human flesh and walking among us, all of us, “all people.” We talked about glory – a word one rarely hears in daily life– and how we are covered in it, the very glory of Christ. We talked about the great promise of John 1: that Jesus became what we are, that we may be what he is – a child of God. That’s us – the very children of God, in every glorious shade.
As we enter into this holy season, may we be thoughtful with our words, enjoying the old words and also making time to try out some new words – words that invite each and every one into the joyous promise of this season – even Jesus, the Emmanuel.