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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, January 8, 2021  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  John 1:1–9

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (NRSV)

Reflection
Though I hear this gospel text proclaimed every Christmas, I had the joyful experience of hearing it anew this year. While listening to Lessons and Carols from King’s College in Cambridge, I heard (I’ve “heard” it before but this year I heard it . . . you know what I mean) the King James translation of verse 5: “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Blew. My. Mind.

But that’s not what this devotion is about (though feel free to stop reading right now and pursue that line of thought . . . it won’t disappoint). For not the first time in my life, I wish that I could read John in the original Greek. I’m still stuck on verse 5, but now it’s all about the verb tense. The NRSV translates the second clause in the past tense: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” The translation I am more familiar with, the NAB, uses the present perfect for the second clause: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

That’s a powerful difference. The latter emphasizes the fact that the Incarnation is still happening . . . still . . . on January 8, 2021.

Though John’s place in salvation history is piercingly unique and weirdly riveting, today you and I share his mission to announce Jesus and the salvation he brings.

When I tried reading verses 6–8 as if I really believe that, the experience was both exhilarating and terrifying (a sure sign of the Holy Spirit at work).

There was a woman sent from God, whose name was Susan. She came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through her. She herself was not the light, but she came to testify to the light.

That refocused my 2021 to-do list. Try it for yourself and see what happens.

Prayer
Holy Word, brightest Light, enlighten me so that I may make you present in the world. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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