I’ve actually been meaning to post this for quite some time now, but I’ve been reminded of it again and am finally getting around to it. I have in my 20-year-old NIV Study Bible on page 1599 a 3″x4″ Post-it Note affixed overtop of the notes on the bottom of the page. It contains three bullet-points referring to a text on that page, with a few brief notes about each one. The note represents advice at-the-ready that I could share with a group for anywhere from 5 minutes perhaps up to full sermon length. It always seemed a good idea to have something at the ready, and it is a bit of advice that I shared with leaders and leaders-in-training and people in ministry training or prophetic ministry. And now here it is on the blog. I say there are three lessons, but really it’s a single lesson in three points, designed to remind us who we are and put us in our place.
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, which is apparently one of the high holy days in the Christian calendar, a “major feast.” Hey, I’m always up for feasting. Odd that this would be considered such a high day and yet I only stumbled upon it by chance through reading a summer post by Phyllis Tickle. She writes,
For us, the Feast of the Transfiguration is one of the church’s 12 Great Feast Days. That is, it’s right on up there with the Nativity [Christmas] and the Feast of the Resurrection [Easter,] at least in religious terms, if not popular or cultural ones. It calls us to remember the apex or culminating event of Jesus’ public life in which, on a mountaintop and in full view of Peter, James, and John, Jesus was transfigured into a radiance beyond their later description. Moses and Elijah were also present during the Transfiguration itself, one on either side of him; and even as the gathered apostles watched, a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice, speaking from the cloud, said, “This is my son, the Beloved; and with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” From that moment on, the course of history was set and, in many ways, the church was born.
For lack of anything better, I’m starting a meme… but hopefully an interesting one that’s not too hard to handle. Rules are simple: name your favorite book of the Bible, and explain why. Link back here and tag 5-ish people. Jump in with a comment below if you don’t have a blog, or to point back to your entries.
Naturally, I’ll dive in first.
Favorite book: John’s Gospel.
I developed a love of the book in my senior year of Bible College, when I took the course in John taught by a part-time prof who was, incidentally, one of the “youth” way back when my parents were the youth leaders in the church where I grew up. But that part was long ago and not relevant to this discussion…
Now that we’ve wrapped up our brief look at John’s Prologue as an introduction to the themes of Advent and Christmas, I wanted to dwell a bit more on the canticle I used for the compline in the fourth week of Advent, which was unfortunately too short this year. I carefully selected a song by Mike Koop of St. Benedict’s Table fame. John’s prologue is a hymn for Christmas and all year long, and if you wanted to know what an updated song for Christmas and all year long would look like if you wrote it with your head filled with gospel images while staring at the prologue to John (1:1-18), I think I have the answer. It would need to be something written as an epiphany, like John’s gospel — portraying Jesus’ entry into, accomplishment of his task, and exit from the temporal scene with the transcendence of an Eternal God stepping in and out of time at will. It would need to reflect the fullness of both his Godhood and his humanity, in the same breath wherever possible.
For the record, there are twelve days to the Christmastide season… let the feasting continue! We should know this from the famous Christmas carol, yet these days most of us may just scratch our heads as to what, when, and why the twelve days are. It turns out that the 12 days song actually has some relation to a variety of theological themes. Coming to the point thought, we’ve moved out of the Advent season and into the Christmas season. In my Advent book, I have included an extra set of daily offices for use during the Christmas season… kind of a bonus for those who made the purchase. Although the Advent synchroblog has ended, the daily office and the celebration of Christmas go on. The extra office is designed to keep the Christmas themes present in our minds throughout the season. In the book, I introduced it this way:
This was the year we decided to introduce our kids to the hilarity of A Christmas Story. Our youngest fell asleep, and there were bits of explaining to do with our oldest so she’d get some of the jokes… the ones we wanted her to! ;^) It is of course the story of a childhood Christmas, but told from the perspective of an adult reflecting — and naturally that’s the only way it works. I thought about the late Darren McGavin’s portrayal of The Old Man in the movie. Let’s say he had, er, a crusty exterior. Not quite the model of an exemplary parent given the particular medium of his artistry. Yet there’s something soft about him, deep down. The story arc of the entire movie makes two things fairly clear. First, The Old Man and his sons are relationally distant, and you wonder in fact whether The Old Man knows or sees at all what’s going on with his boys, so easily distracted is he by the newspaper, sports conversations, puzzles, or “major awards.” Second, the unwavering focus on a certain Christmas present that was simply not going to happen, for fear of the loss of an eye.
As we carry on in our Johannine Advent blogging through my Advent Daily Office with the prologue to John’s gospel, we arrive at a pair of fairly significant verses… I might even say favorites, and if the structure of the passage didn’t convince me otherwise I might say that verse 14 is the climax of the passage. Well, in many ways it is the thematic climax, but the main point is yet to come. Verses 9-10 and 14 are linked in their subject matter, both positively and negatively. In 9-10 the Word comes into the world he created but his people don’t recognize him; in verse 14, he “pitches his tent” among his people and at least some recognized him and “beheld his glory.”
With the start of the second week of Advent yesterday, we began the theme of Peace, and we begin a new set of readings and prayers in our Advent Daily Office. We continue in John’s prologue, and for the first half of the week we settle on verses 4&5, paired with verse 16. The Old Testament texts are from Isaiah.
John 1:4-5, JBP, JB Margin
In him appeared life,
and this life was the light of mankind.
The light still shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has never grasped it.
Isaiah 9:2-7 (A great light appears in the darkness)
John 1:16, NASB
For of his fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.
Isaiah 11:1-9 (The peace of the Messiah)