In our RAFTS group last night we were looking at John 1:1-18. As we look ahead to Christmas we were thinking about what we might glean from John's theological take on the birth of Christ, particularly when it comes to how we seek to live with God at the centre of our lives and with our relationship with and understanding of His mission to the world informing and teaching us as we seek to join Him in His ongoing work.
As you might imagine there was a lot of stuff that came up in the course of our study and conversation on such a packed few verses. Here is the first one:
In the first two verses John writes: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning."
Even a quick glance at these verses tells us one thing straight away: God is at least two people! God (the Father - although the passage doesn't make that clear); and Jesus (the Word). So straight away we are starting to see that at the very beginning of time, before anything else, God the Father and God the Son existed in relationship. But if we flick back a few (OK, a lot of!) pages we realise that this wasn't simply a divine two-some; because this is what we read in Genesis 1:1-2: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
So John tells us we have the Father and the Son; and then Genesis tells us that we have the Father and the Spirit; and thus we see the beginning of our understanding of the Trinity. Because we see that God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; with none being an after-thought or created by one of the others; yet each, as the scriptures make clearer (although it is not my plan to unpack this here), with a distinctive role within the work of the Godhead.
So what does all of this theologising tell us that can be of any practical use as we approach Christmas seeking to learn from the example of Jesus? Well here's my suggestion: It's all about community!
Because there's something else that Genesis tells us: that we are made in the image of God. And as we've seen God is community. But not only is God community with God, but in the coming of Jesus He literally and physically joined our community (and more of that another day!). And so the challenge and question as I see it is this: as we look to the coming of Jesus, how are we seeking to model the community that we see in the Trinity and the incarnation? Because if we are serious about reflecting Him and His light then we must be serious about having love as our very essence and community as our goal as we reach out to all of this creation which He loves so much.
And as we journey through this advent time that means not only building the community that we already have, but looking out for the isolated, ignored, unknown, and those on the margins, and seeking to welcome them into a new community of hope, transformation and love...