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Returning from Exile
Returning from Exile
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Posted on Tue, Jan 5, 2016

John 1:1-18

January 3, 2016


Gospel Text: John 1:1-18 – “SING, DANCE, PLAY for JOY HAS COME!”

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.



Happy New Year to all! How was your celebration? Noisy, festive, filled with people, smoke, food, fun & frivolity? My New Year celebration was very low key. Since Yuriko and Kai are off in Japan with family, and Andrew was either out working or with friends, I spent the time with our dog Brewski so that he wouldn't be alone when the neighborhood would begin exploding from 9 pm.


How was your 2015 experience? How did you feel when the calendar changed from 2015 to 2016? I don’t know what you perceived or what you felt, but it appeared to me that there was a great number of people who were just glad to see 2015 end. As if when the bombs went off in the neighborhoods, it was a collective sigh of relief and gladness 2015 was over and we are onto a new year with hopefully new possibilities… am I correct? For you on Facebook, did you notice a similar sentiment among the people you are friends with? I began noticing it in the stores where they were selling fireworks, it was like people didn't care how much they bought, there just weren’t enough fireworks to scare away 2015 and welcome in 2016. I saw one set of parents who seemed to not care how many packages of fireworks the kids crammed into the shopping cart. Amazing!


For many of our members as well as neighbors, it seems to me 2015 was a difficult year; business, housing, relational, environmental, health and so many other difficult valleys people had to slog through. The news of the end of 2015, and the proclamation of the coming 2016, reminded me of John the Baptizer shouting out, hang on! A new era with a new hope is about to break into the world! Prepare yourselves for the one who can give us hope and direction! A time of being alone is over, and a new era of living in relationship with joy is about to begin!


Today is a day of announcing Hope! Today is a day of announcing the coming of Hope in Christ Jesus, and the proclamation of our relationship restored through the same Jesus. Through this relationship with a faithful God, we seem to resemble the people in today’s Jeremiah passage returning home after over seventy years in exile and slavery, returning to their home in order to restore their nation, identity, and faith-life.


Jeremiah’s words offer real good news to a people longing for it.

They are words of hope and restoration; a message of joy and praise. But there’s a catch, this is not a statement of facts. It is an oracle, a promise yet to be fulfilled, a description of things hoped for. Jeremiah is ever hopeful and his message is delivered to a people sorely in need of hope. The context of the text is that of the exiled people of Israel, who have suffered long in captivity and all the while eagerly waited for the prophecy of a divine promise of release and restoration. As I read the text the prophecy seemed to fit the situation of many in the present society. Especially those I observe falling further and further behind in the challenges of just making ends meet each day, let alone planning on creating a nest-egg for the future, and little by little are burdened with a feeling of hopelessness each and everyday.


The people in Jeremiah’s oracle; The earlier verses of chapter 31 (1-6) can be referred to as the remnant of Israel that has survived the devastation of being overrun by the various conquerors of their nation, and his oracle is proclaimed to offer the assurance of God’s empowering enlivening presence that will bring about their restoration. These people have suffered devastating loss that has extended beyond their personal and familial lives, beyond their religious and societal norms, deep into their very culture. They were uprooted from their normal life and location of Jerusalem and Judea and taken away. Jerusalem was destroyed along with their Temple… Now they are returning home with little to show for it, but only a promise… from the prophet, they are not alone. God will make them new again.


I picture the people returning home, slowly and deliberately, with a message, a promise in their hearts:


7 For thus says the Lord:

Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, (Remember, Jacob is another name for Israel)

 and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;

proclaim, give praise, and say,

 ‘Save, O Lord, your people,

 the remnant of Israel.’

8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,

 and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,

among them the blind and the lame,

 those with child and those in labor, together;

 a great company, they shall return here.

9 With weeping they shall come,

 and with consolations I will lead them back,

I will let them walk by brooks of water,

 in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;

for I have become a father to Israel,

 and Ephraim is my firstborn.”


Put this oracle into the present tense, for all those who feel worthless, or cast away be society because of age, loss of employment, home, family, financial stability, and cascading health issues. It doesn't take much for a person to be living in comfort and ease one day, and then be cast into a life of “dis”-ease, despair and debilitating loss the next. But the message for the Israelites is also for our present world, that God has not forgotten God’s covenant of care for God’s people, this is a word of comfort. And in light of the present culture’s disregard or dismissal of those who are disabled -- “the blind and the lame,” and of women -- “those with child and those in labor,” as unworthy of attention or respect, this text is a message of empowerment and the underlying message for those saying, “Good riddance 2015!” and feeling forgotten, disregarded, marginalized, or dismissed, is that regardless of your situation, God has a saving, affirming, uplifting word for us.


What I love about the text is that the blessing of God is not a sign of worthiness, no matter what criteria is used. God’s compassion and justice extends to all, and God’s promise of a “restorative justice” is specifically for those who have been brought low by any and all circumstances of life. The promises of God delivered through the words of the prophet transcends time and place and gathers all people of every time and place into the ever-present grace of God that offers fullness of life to all. God is bringing the remnant back home!


I love how the text finishes with the description that resembles something like a Christmas party with dancing, singing and food! It reminds me of so many of the pictures I saw of people celebrating during this Christmas season. And what also makes it so wonderful is that it is God who is being the gift-giver and bringing hope and home to God’s people.  


The oracle of Jeremiah is written to the exiled people of his day. But it is also written to the exiled people of this day as well. Whatever has divided, segregated, or separated the people of God in any way from one another has been overturned. God has made us all one, and the reunion of family and the Family of God is a time of joy. In Christ we have the promise and the opportunity of unity with the whole people of God. In this season we are invited to join this celebration of unity and of life through the promised salvation of God offered to us in Jesus Christ. Go had, “SING, DANCE, PLAY for JOY HAS COME!” Amene!

   Discussion: “SING, DANCE, PLAY for JOY HAS COME!”

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