No Judgments, Just Jesus

Christmas Letter 2015

Dear Members and Friends of Immanuel United Church of Christ,

Advent is just around the corner and with it comes our return to the story of the Christ.

This year we will journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John. John’s gospel does not begin with the traditional Christmas stories we find in Matthew and Luke. John is far more ambitious; he takes us to the earliest moment of creation… and beyond!

Using the language of Genesis, John retells the Jewish story of creation in light of the Advent of Christ Jesus. Instead of “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), John goes back into the eternal communion of the divine life: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

The eternal “Word” whose face is toward God (in loving personal relationship) and yet, mysteriously, is also God, has entered our world in the person of Jesus: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Through Jesus, God’s love is put on display for the salvation of the world: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16).

The Advent of the “Word” brings life, light, glory, and grace. All four words appear in John’s prologue, that is, John’s Christmas Story:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:1, 4-5, 14, 16)

Life. Light. Glory. Grace. Each week of Advent we will take one of these rich words and consider how they shed light on the significance of the coming of the Christ. Hence, the title of our Advent series: Words of Advent: Life. Light. Glory. Grace.

My prayer is that our encounters with Jesus through John’s Gospel will lead us to deeper faith, greater hope, and stronger expressions of God’s love. This was John’s specific focus in writing his gospel, to bring us to faith in Christ that we might know the life of God:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

I warmly invite you to set aside the season’s hectic pace and demands, and make space for the Christ Child. Come, share the sacred journey with us!

Now, may the uncreated light of the divine life reveal God’s glory and transform us by God’s grace to be Advent people!

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Richard J. Vincent


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