Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Fourth Day of Christmas/ the Feast of St. John (transferred): December 28

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
-    1 John 5

When December 26 falls on a Sunday, a few important feasts each get bumped forward one day: St. Stephen to the 27th, St. John to the 28th, and the Holy Innocents to the 29th.

Today is the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. One of the twelve main disciples, John is also usually identified as “the one whom Jesus loved.” This indication only occurs in John’s Gospel, suggesting that the author (or attributed author) had a very special relationship with Jesus. In the New Testament there are also three letters attributed to John, though scholars disagree about whether this is the same John. There is also the Revelation to John (of Patmos), who is most certainly a different John.

With so many Johns, it can be difficult to sort out exactly whom we are celebrating today! But I do like this reading from today’s lectionary. I took one quarter of Greek at Seattle University last year, and during that quarter we began working our way slowly through the First Letter of John. We learned that John’s Greek was rather clunky and halting, but also basic and free of fancy vocabulary, which is why we beginners were able to delve into it pretty easily. It seems Greek was not John’s first language either.

“For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments.” That seems odd, doesn’t it? Since when does love depend on obeying commandments? Yet I think our inclination is to put the cart before the horse. I believe the intent is to show that when we obey God’s commandments, it’s a sign that we have loved God all along—that this is a natural response to that love. If we love God, what else would we want to do?

And what does John mean by “his commandments”? Whether or not he is the same person as the author of the Gospel of John, he most certainly means, “Love one another.” Jesus came into the world and proclaimed that there is, in essence, only one commandment: love. If we place love at the center of our lives every day, we have “conquered the world.” We have got it all figured out. That doesn’t make life easy, but in a very real way, love is the key to every door.

Today is also the fourth day of Christmas. Here’s the band Jars of Clay with “Love Came Down at Christmas.”

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