St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

1 John 1:1-9 
John 21:19b-24

Here we are on the third day of Christmas. The gifts have been unwrapped. Families are departing from Christmas Day gatherings back to their respective homes. Some of us have returned to work. The radios have stopped playing Christmas tunes. Yet, for Christians, the celebration of the presence of the Eternal Word has just begun.

As the ladders go up to pull down the sparkling lights, the first epistle of John reminds us that the light of Christ that we celebrate at His birth remains. “In him there is no darkness at all,” the first epistle of John reminds us. Yet somehow we still scurry to pull down the lights and get back to our day-to-day existence beyond the day of Christmas.

What is it about the light of Christ that has us packing away our Christmas gear so early into the 12 days of Christmas leading to the Epiphany? The day of Christmas can be filled with such seeming innocence—a celebration of the birth of a little boy who brings the hope of salvation to the world.

Yet how quickly do we realize that the light of the Son of God threatens to expose us? When we find ourselves in the light of God, there is nothing left to hide. We are vulnerable, exposed, and naked before God. And in that vulnerability, we are expected to trust a baby that fully depends upon other human beings. Others must nurture him so he might survive. He must depend on others that he might survive one day save us.

I love how this Gospel passage, the close to the testament of the life of Jesus according to John, ends. Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.”

Peter knows that Jesus is calling him to an uncomfortable place, a place where he can no longer conform, a next stage in his life where he must take responsibility for his personal convictions and beliefs. The spotlight is on Peter.

Peter, rather than agreeing to follow Jesus, asks of his nearby friend, “What about this other guy? What is he supposed to do?”

The final words of Jesus are, in essence, “What’s it to you? Follow me!”

The light of Christ exposes us, makes it clear that God takes us personally, that we can no longer hide from the responsibility of faith. And we have the promise that we won’t have to go it alone. If God incarnate had to rely upon other human beings for survival and growth, so must we.

Perhaps this year, you might leave up those sparkling lights a few days longer. Be reminded that Christmas is not just about the day of Jesus’ birth, but is a call to dwell in Him who is light and life.

Jesus’ light exposes, enlightens, and calls you. Where might Christ’s bright, shining, expository light lead your life during this Christmas season?

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Rev. Allison Rainey English serves as Associate Priest at St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach, California. Allison graduated from Claremont School of Theology with a Master of Divinity in 2008. Her passions for work in the church include liturgical development, pastoral care, youth ministry, and responsible social engagement/community building among the church.

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At the Same Table

Psalm 35
Luke 22:14-30

Today we find ourselves in the second week of Advent, not only preparing to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, but looking even further into his life and ministry. Today we find Jesus near the end, gathered at the Passover meal, “eagerly desiring” to be at table one last time with those gathered in his midst. Soon after, he would be betrayed by one of his own, charged, convicted, and executed.

We look back to Psalm 35, a prayer for God’s help by a person accused falsely, persecuted by his enemies. The psalmist calls upon God to fight against those who fight him. The psalmist cries, “How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my life from the lions.” He continues, saying, if you save my life from these enemies of mine, then I will praise you.

The psalmist believes in his heart that God wants all servants of God to be well. Yet he struggles with reconciling how suffering at the hands of his enemies could possibly be in the interest of a great God.

How have you been repaid evil for good in your life? What is God’s role in any struggles or sufferings you face? How do you expect God to respond when you experience discrimination, singling out, or maltreatment?What might be the response of Jesus to such experiences?

Jesus, like the psalmist, is about to suffer at the hands of his enemies in today’s Gospel passage from Luke. Peter will deny him. Judas will betray him. What does he do? Unlike the psalmist, Jesus does not beg and plead with God. He does not wish for his enemies to suffer. Jesus instead gathers his friends and enemies all together, in one room. In their midst institutes the sacrament of Holy Communion, telling them, “do this in remembrance of me.” Gather together, share with one another, and be nourished.

After friends and enemies alike eat together. Jesus knows one will betray him. They almost immediately miss the point, arguing about who among them might be greatest. Even after a shared feast, they ask, “who will be first among us?” Jesus meets his disciples in their brokenness, and calls them toward wholeness. It’s a wholeness only encountered by being together.

Jesus calls us to gather with friends and enemies alike. Jesus calls us to sit at table with our enemies, along with our friends. Because it is in a place of nourishment, of community, of sharing, of reconciliation, that God ultimately works through each of us to restore us to wholeness.

This Advent, we are called to wait patiently for the coming of Christ. In places of prejudice, exclusion, and struggle, we patiently wait, continuing to meet face-to-face with even our enemies at table. In doing so, in opening our hearts even to those who hate us, we run the risk of running into the very Christ we thought had run from us.

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Rev. Allison Rainey English serves as Associate Priest at St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach, California. Allison graduated from Claremont School of Theology with a Master of Divinity in 2008. Her passions for work in the church include liturgical development, pastoral care, youth ministry, and responsible social engagement/community building among the church.