Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on the celebration, welcome, Joy and Hope we have in the coming of the Light of the World.
DR BYRON SMITH
On the fourteenth day of Advent 2022, Dr Byron Smith invites us to reflect on the relationship and conversation we are generously welcomed into through the Word.
A Good Conversation
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
John 1:1-5 + 14-18
I hate parties. Most of them, anyway. Walking into a noisy room full of chatter, a dozen bodies blocking the route to the nearest salty snacks, recognising a handful of faces but my mind blanks on their names: how can I break in to one of these circles? I don’t want to interrupt anything important. With longstanding deficits in auditory processing and vocal volume, will I be able to make out what others are saying or make myself heard over the music? How many times will I need to repeat the same five minutes of mind-numbing introductory small talk or catch-up, never getting to any issues of substance?
What bliss when a friendly face in a quiet corner notices me, opens their small circle and invites me in! Even better when they bypass the usual ritualised exchanges, briefly orient me to a fascinating ongoing topic of discussion, and then press on with it. I can just listen or participate as I wish. Everyone’s contributions are respected, yet disagreement is possible without anyone picking pointless fights. Neither kindness nor candour are sacrificed.
I have been invited into a conversation I did not begin. A good conversation, full of grace and truth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
So begins the famous prologue of the fourth Gospel, traditionally attributed to John. Before anything else, God is vocal, expressive, communicative. God relates to one who is other, and yet one who is so intimately tied to God as we are to words we breathe out. Some of us like to think of God as beyond words, indescribable, safely unknowable. But in the beginning God already puts the divine into words, into the Word.
And this speech is an act of generosity. We come to know others primarily through their words. In speaking the Word, God gives nothing less than – God. God opens up for relationship, for a conversation. But this conversation is no closed clique of old friends, designed to leave us ever on the outer, awkwardly looking for a cold drink to hide the fact that we’ve been shut out.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us.
We are invited into a conversation we did not begin. The one who made us, who made all things, who made us and all things by speaking, now invites us to converse.
Having been welcomed into this divine circle of grace and truth, warmth and reciprocity, we are given a further blessing: to include others as we have been included.
As you look around the room of society today, this noisy party with wildly asymmetrical catering, ask yourself: which voices are always speaking over others? Who has monopolised the best snacks? And who is being excluded? Whose voices get ignored? Where can you nurture spaces of honest reflection and generous exchange?
God is good to all. We get to join in.
Dr Byron Smith is an ecological ethicist helping churches join the dots between caring for our common home and Christian discipleship. He has a PhD in theological ethics exploring our emotional responses to climate disruption and their relation to Christian identity and discipleship.