Our texts for the first half of this week get us started into the prologue to John’s gospel, where we’ll be spending most of our time through Advent… backed by the Old Testament readings, of course. It is thought by some scholars that these first 18 verses of John were originally an early Christian hymn, which is an idea I just love for some reason. I can imagine it sung… the Greek text has a poetic flavour to it that many translations just don’t get. John also uses words very carefully, being at times deliberately ambiguous it seems, or using words with double-meanings. Again, the translations don’t always catch these. No fault to them, double-meanings are very difficult to deal with in translation.
John’s prologue (1:1-18) is written in a poetic style (chiasm or chiasmus or parallelisms if you like; look up Nils W. Lund if this intrigues you), where related ideas are layered around other related ideas, surrounding the most important part… in the middle. As we move through our passage in John, it’s going to look a bit like the texts are muddled, but this is the reason… we’re peeling back layers to get to the middle, reading from the front and back at the same time.
Part of our readings for the early part of the week include an example, John 1:1-2:
In the beginning was the Word
The Word was with God
The Word was God
He was in the beginning with God
It actually breaks down further, but this makes the point – the indented lines relate to each other and are the central part; the two “outer” lines frame the important bit. These verses tip us to what’s coming in the rest of the prologue (and throughout John’s gospel, in fact). This should help explain why we’re taking the text in an unusual order: they readings only look muddled; it’ll make sense as we unpack them.
Let’s begin with the Old Testament readings.
Proverbs 8:1,4,22-26 is the call of wisdom, personified. She existed before anything was created, and cries out to people, calling to be heard. Dwell on this for a moment… I’ve always found it striking how Proverbs personifies wisdom like a person, and elevates it to a status outside of the known creation. It’s not entirely unlike the opening verses of John that we’ve quoted. I’ve always thought of John as the closest thing that the New Testament has to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament.
The second Old Testament reading is Exodus 6:2-8, where God first reveals his name to Moses (or Moshe, if you’re reading the translation in the book). God reaffirms his covenant with Israel to Moses. This is not God’s first covenant statement, but an affirmation — he says he has heard the groans of his people for a deliverer, and has remembered his covenant. This is probably the statement of God’s covenant that I like the most, just for the promise that God will take us to be his people, and he will be our God.
Now we come to John. We’ve already quoted verses 1 and 2; verse 18 says, “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” (NLT) This echoes the first two verses in the way that the “Unique One”, the Word, is with God — and he has made God known to us. that is, if we have ears to hear the voice of wisdom calling us to recognize him. This revelation of God reminds us of the covenant he remembers… and in this we have hope. In Advent we call out to God, and we hope… we hope that our groans will be met with his presence, “God with Us” in response. That we would be his people and he would be our God.
Advent is about waiting… and fortunate for us that God hears not only our groans: God actually hears us wait. As we wait, may we hear the call of Wisdom, the voice of the Word, whose people know his voice. This first week of Advent is Hope — let the hope in our waiting is the revelation of the Word; he will hear us waiting, and respond as Emmanuel, “God With Us.” We will be his people and he will be our God.
This post is part of the Johannine Advent Project — other participating bloggers include:
More Posts: Advent Blogging with John’s Gospel
- Brother Maynard
- Lainie Petersen
- Peggy Brown
- Adam Copeland
- John the Shepherd
- Rob Robinson
- Christine Sine
- Lori Bjerkander
- Glenn Jordan
- Julie Clawson
- Cindy Bryan
- Robin Dugall
- Lyn Hallewell
- J. Michael Matkin
- Eric G.
- (Formerly Emerging) Grace
- Matt Stone
- Milton Brasher-Cunningham
Not everyone listed is blogging on the same days, but together we’ll likely cover almost every day through Advent.