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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Becoming Mothers / Parents

In some ways the beginning of Advent is an ode to Parents. The women becoming mothers, the men bearing their own visions and dreams. But Advent does bring that focus on the women becoming mothers.

In I Samuel 2:1-10 we read about the story of Hannah. Hannah was a woman of God who prayed with fervor for her barren womb to be opened, and she became the mother of Samuel, the Prophet and Judge who would anoint David King. In fact the passage of 1 Samuel 2:1-10 is often called the Song of Hannah. It is a text of longing for the child within, and the model text for another passage famous this time of year.

In the tradition of Hannah, we find in Luke 1:46-55 a very famous text often called the Magnificat. It is a text of Mary – soon to be a mother herself – expressing her gratitude in a psalm of praise to God. Her hope, though, was not just for herself and for her unborn child, but for all people… for all generations. Her hope was for a time when oppression and scarcity would be a distant memory. Through our singing of the songs and telling of the stories of Mary’s little baby, who became Jesus of Nazareth – our brother, teacher, and Christ – we keep hope alive. We hope for the continued fulfillment of the promise, when justice and deliverance will be realized for all of Creation. “A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

PRACTICE: We invite you today to look at these texts so foundational to the Advent season. Ponder them deep in your heart and soul. We invite you to write your own hymn of praise to God, a praise that acknowledges the coming of Jesus at Christmas which we anticipate this Advent Season. If writing a unique praise to God seems to daunting…then you are invited to re-write the Magnificat from Luke’s gospel in today’s language—who are the downtrodden today? Can you name them in prayer to God?

Today’s devotional is a collaboration featuring the thoughts and words of Rev. Mary Jo Bradshaw and Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas. Both of their bios can be found on the bios page.