|Feast of St. John the Apostle
First John 1:1-4
Psalms 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12
I must confess that reading the gospel for today—two days after celebrating the birth of Christ—was disconcerting to me. Somehow, moving from the divine mystery of God putting on skin and coming to live among us to crucifixion and resurrection in two short days strikes a dissonant chord with me. I find myself almost repelled—not by the scripture itself, but by the timing of it.
I want to revel in the beauty and promise of Emmanuel without the human discord and disbelief that brought about crucifixion. I want to hear the angels, see the shepherds and feel the awe at the exotic magi. I want to dwell in the wonder of the miraculous birth of God in human form. It’s not that I like the “hoopla” associated with Christmas, at least as it is celebrated in this culture. I don’t. But, I love the incredible and totally mysterious manifestation of Emmanuel, of God with us, so with us that God chose to become human and live the legacy of love in our midst.
But, today’s scripture won’t let me stay there in the manger, to revel in only in the beginnings. It forces me to confront the “rest of the story”—to taken into myself that God chose to become human and live the legacy of love, even unto death at our hands. It’s that latter part I don’t want to deal with, not today—two days after Christmas. And, yet…
Today’s scripture is not just about the ugliness of crucifixion—it is about the aftermath, the incredulity of resurrection. It is about life beyond death—rebirth, re-emergence, life beyond the confines of human contours. And, I like the author of today’s epistle want to “speak of the word of life.” I too stand at the empty tomb and, seeing, believe.
I can’t say I always understood and believed, not the way I do at this point in my life. But, three years ago this month, I was present as my father left this life. I—with my mother, brother, and husband—witnessed his spirit breaking free from the chains of a broken body, saw his spirit take flight and live. There are no words to capture what I saw…but, you know, I knew God was with us in that moment too, just as truly as in the moments of first birth. And, I also knew that life is not bound by humanity.
So-o, maybe the scripture for today is not so dissonant after all. God’s love knows no boundaries, no constraints. Our God is with us, in this life and the next. No, there are no words to capture the legacy of love and life given to us by our God. And, like Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, I too stand at the empty tomb…see and believe.
Thanks be to God.
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