Lockdown or not, Christmas was a time of light. A time to soak in the glory of God’s presence among us. The shining of the angels, the rich gifts of the wise men. Then we are left with a new year, a blank sheet on which to work out this glorious revelation in a year that is dark, damp and cold. And this year, with additional lockdown restrictions, too.
I always feel that John’s gospel reflects this. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the wonderful first verses are read [or sung- Canon Maynard always did it beautifully]. John then goes on, in his gospel, to show how the glory he began with is gradually revealed amidst human reality and misunderstanding, leading to the resurrection.
The call of Nathanael, in the last verses of John’s first chapter [verse 45 onwards], give the first glimmerings of God’s glory in our old, tired world. On being told about Jesus, Nathanael says to Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This is a stale, shallow, boring saying that he trots out. Full of pointless prejudice and with no real thought behind it, just like the stale and shallow old order of things he is part of.
Jesus’ replies, “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile!” In this short response, Jesus has just turned everything around! Where anyone else might easily have replied to Nathanael in a similar vein to his own comment [‘You’re a tricky blighter yourself, Nat!’], our Lord points to the future. Unlike his ancestor Jacob [Israel], who was full of trickery, Nathanael will fulfil his destiny and that of his people. Jesus’ response is fresh, personal and leads Nathanael on to real fulfilment. Jesus points to the future when Jacob’s greatest moment, a dream of a ladder to heaven, will be a reality.
I think the New Year will be like this, for all the bad news about Covid-19: glimmers of hope and glory that will grow and grow. So when we meet with pessimistic and despairing thoughts about what lies ahead, let us think about how Jesus dealt with such thoughts- a starting point for hope in the future into which He is leading us.
Lord Jesus, you came to us as a light shining in our darkness, a light who dwelt among us: In the dark days that often surround us, lead us forward to know more and more of that light which you brought, which will shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day [Proverbs 4:18]. Amen
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