Colossians 1. 15 – 20
John 1. 1 – 14
With the Feast of Candlemas on Friday we brought to an end our long Christmas and Epiphany season. The crib has been cleared and will shortly be packed away; the white vestments have gone back into the chest for a time.
But today we’re given as our Gospel reading that great prologue from St John’s Gospel. With the exception of the birth narratives themselves, it’s probably the ultimate Christmas reading.
Why hear it again now, you might be wondering. Well although these two ordinary Sundays, this week and next, might feel a little like simply passing the time between Candlemas and Ash Wednesday, actually they form a miniature season of their own. A kind of pre-season, if you will, to prepare us for the great paschal cycle of Lent and Easter.
Today in our readings and hymns, we’re encouraged to reflect on the created order, and its relationship with its creator. That long bit of Psalm 104 that we sang together is a great celebration of all that God has made, all set in its place and working together for good.
Next week we will hear the account of the transfiguration of Jesus, and reflect on how he comes to transform this creation, and show it the way of perfection.
Then we spend forty days and forty nights preparing for our celebration of the fulfilment of his promise not to leave or forsake this creation, but to bring us to share the fullness of his life for all eternity.
That’s quite a lot to think about on a Sunday morning! Indeed it will take the whole of Lent and beyond to even begin to scratch the surface of what all this means for us.
Next week you’ll be able to pick up a copy of our Lent Booklet, and you’ll see that we have a great deal planned for this holy season, to help us all to enter deeply into the mystery of our redemption. I encourage you to join in with as much as possible.
Lent, of course, is a time when we think about our journey of faith, and all that might be holding us back from the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring us; things that are falling short of the way of perfection he showed us.
That can be a painful process, as we confront honestly the difficult parts of our life; as we come to terms with the dark bits that perhaps we’d rather not bring to light.
But as our creation ‘theme’ encourages us to reflect this morning, that’s not the whole story.
Because Lent takes place at a time when creation is beginning to wake up again. The word ‘Lent’ seems to come from the old English word for ‘lengthening,’ as the days improve and the winter darkness recedes.
The 17th Century poet George Herbert exclaimed, “Welcome, dear feast of Lent: who loves thee not?” He wasn’t just being poetic; in the days before electricity and central heating the return of life and warmth at this time of year must have been thrilling, even a miraculous thing.
Lent, if done properly, is at its heart a celebration of new life: both in the world of nature, as well as in the realm of grace.
So a fruitful Lenten discipline this year might be to focus on the changes in the world around us and delight in the sheer goodness of God’s creation. And perhaps to think about how we might live more harmoniously within the created order.
But as our liturgical observance takes us down deeper into darkness as we contemplate the suffering of our Saviour, the world around us will be waking up and bringing forth the new life that is the promise of Easter.
And that awakening will be reflected in our own spiritual lives, if we take Lent seriously. Just like pruning a plant amazingly encourages new growth; cutting away the distractions and diversions of life will allow us to flourish in new and wonderful ways.
And this is the truth that is celebrated in our beautiful readings this morning. That Christ, who was in the beginning with God; Christ, in whom and for whom all things have been created; Christ, in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, the very image of God – came right down deep into the darkness of the world.
To a world that did not know him; to a people who did not accept him.
But in emptying himself, in giving up all claims to power and status; in choosing to dwell in the darkness and face its reality: he revealed his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
And he enabled us to share in that glory; to bear that same image of God, and to rise up with him to share his very divinity, as he takes our humanity up to heaven at his Ascension.
Lent reminds us that that great rising up is not possible without first descending low. And as we will encounter afresh in the coming weeks, the joy of Easter is not possible without first the despair of Good Friday.
So don’t be afraid to enter into Lent seriously, this year. The more deeply we enter into the mystery, the more will be revealed to us. And the more honestly we face the darkness, the more joyfully we will be able to celebrate in the light that awaits us at Easter. Amen.