Advent Devotional – December 16

Advent Week 3: Joy

December 16

John 1:1-5, New English Translation

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.  The Word was with God in the beginning.  All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.  In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.  And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it

“Wine from water is not so small,

But an even better magic trick

Is that anything is here at all.

So the challenging thing becomes

Not to look for miracles

But finding where there isn’t one.”

–Peter Mayer, in his song “Holy Now”

I like to imagine that the writer of John’s gospel had read the other gospels as he sat down to write.  How to describe this life? Who was this person who had turned their world upside down? Matthew, Mark, and Luke had told masterful stories describing the uniqueness of the life of Jesus. They told stories of Jesus being influenced by John’s preaching and call for repentance and baptism, stories of angel visitations, powerful dreams, and narrow escapes from murderous tyrants.  Could a baby born in a barn amidst whispers of illegitimacy really contain the divine Spirit?  If God’s dream for the world could be so powerfully present in this one life, what did that mean?

I imagine John musing aloud: “I’ll see your manger and raise you a supernova.”  Of course, astronomers and cosmologists hadn’t yet peered through telescopes strong enough to see things that would come to be called supernovas.  But John was looking through a life, and saw all the way back to the beginning. And he drew a line from one to the other.  What God was doing in that manger was what God had been up to in shaping a world and calling it good.  If that manger was good, so was sea salt and sweat.

Did you ever have an old cigar box (or its equivalent) with treasures inside– like an acorn, a bird feather, a special rock, a snake skin, a marble, and just a hint of the smell of your favorite uncle or aunt? Remember how magical the finding of each object was, and the keeping of them?  Maybe you still have that old cigar box.  If so, lucky you. Many of us traded them in for walk-in closets, 401ks, and the anxieties associated with what is in each.

I imagine John fingering a sea shell, a feather, and a parchment with stories of Jesus, and then writing: “Without him not one thing was made.”  The Spirit that had been glimpsed and felt in Jesus was in that shell and in that feather.

This year many people have been discovering wisdom in Marie Kondo’s invitation to de-clutter.  If you make it past the ironically cluttered title of the book, you find an invitation to turn in worry about too much stuff for joy in just a few.

I miss my old cigar box. Maybe I’ll get another one, put in some simple treasures, and connect again to a world that is alive with Spirit.

Prayer: Holy God, awaken in us what thrills and frightens us: that day and night, up and down, then and now are drenched in your Spirit. Help us clear out whatever “stuff” keeps us from wonder.

Action: Let yourself be surprised by some small object in the world today (like the items in the image below). Pick it up, turn it over, and imagine the story of how it got there.  Put it in your pocket, or put it back where you found it, then look and listen for what else it wants to help you notice.  In your next three breaths, exhale “Thank you.”

Mark Jensen is the teaching professor of Pastoral Care and Pastoral Theology at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and Chaplain Supervisor at Wake Forest Baptist Health

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