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The beauty of the season

Editor's note

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring Jesus' life through the book of John. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpcdevo to 39970. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

About the author: I am Elia Mrakovich and I am the NextGen Director at ZPC. My life would be incomplete without my incredible wife of 5 years, Erin, and my 1-year-old son, Rowan. We also have two huskies that give us way too much attitude and we can’t seem to wear them out. We have been living in the Indianapolis area for the last 5 years. Reading books, student ministry, and working out fill our time between changing diapers and laughing at things we probably shouldn’t laugh at.

Scripture: John 1:4-5

Today is the start of advent, the start of December, and the start to our monthlong devotional. We are ecstatic that you have chosen to go on this journey with us. If you were able to make it this morning to church and hear me preach on John 1 then I hope this will cultivate further thought. If you were not able to join us then I am sure this will, at the very least, help make the beauty of this season shine forth even brighter.

If you take a look at the above photo, you will see what seems to be a brooding, angsty teen looking off into the distance at some sort of forlorn world that he cannot experience. That person is my very own self. Well, that is someone I used to be. Probably all of us can look back and remember the days that seem like a lifetime ago, the person that seems like someone completely different. Perhaps you used to enjoy a certain type of music or live in a different state or have an entirely different social group. Or maybe you have completely moved on from some lifestyle that no longer suits you. Transition, change, metanoia are all a part of life; a part that we sometimes get shaken up by, shattered by, and even reborn by. Sometimes we view these things as changes, and sometimes these transitions call for something a bit more dramatic.

There is a sentiment running around the world that a vital part of being human is discovering who you are and accepting who you are. That somehow if we experience the right set of circumstances, we can finally be who we were made to be. That perhaps our journey has some sort of end here in the temporal world that we reside in. It’s an honest desire, though we have perhaps misunderstood what it means to know who we are. People are not stagnant. They do not stay the same. They are always in process. They are always on the journey. They are always moving. At least, we would like to think so. If you can tell me with confidence that you wish you were still who you were 5 years ago, then I would love to meet you and buy you coffee. For the mass majority of us, who we are today is a weird combination of what we have chosen, experienced, and learned. We really only have so much control over who we have become. The pursuit of who we are is somewhat futile. Perhaps we should pursue the process of becoming or the journey. 

Christ came and met people where they were, which is such a beautiful sentiment. The image of sitting alongside and dialoguing with those that the community has rejected is a beautiful image of love and grace. The community itself clearly saw that those they rejected did not fit the mold of who they “should” be. Jesus saw that being on the journey is exactly who we are. Scripture is riddled with nomadic imagery. Take a look at the Old Testament. The Jews go from Canaan to Egypt, from slavery to freedom, from freedom to the wilderness, from the wilderness to a kingdom, from a kingdom to exile, from exile to Jerusalem, and from a people completely removed from home to a people who would remove the unclean from their homes. The journey, the path, the road is messy, dirty, shameful, and joyous. Walking in this world as a Christian is a commitment to being on the road and walking alongside those who are on their own road. Because those who are on the road understand that no matter how dark the night becomes, the light they carry is not mastered by it.

See Christ was in the business of remaking, restoring, renewing. In fact, he was in the business of resurrection. So when you look back on your old self, that old person with the addiction, with the second life, with the crippling debt, with the sense that God is against them, or that God is obsessed with good behavior, look back and give that person grace. That person has died, and you have been resurrected in their place. Maybe it’s time for you to have the funeral for them, to grieve the loss of that naivety, that idealism, maybe you have to grieve and allow the experience of selfishness to die. John 1:4-5 describes a light that is in the darkness. A light that resides right where a light is necessary. A light that cannot be defeated but will persistently burn in order to shed light on that which the darkness has hidden. And the joy of Advent is that this light is making the darkness beautiful as the darkness is making the light beautiful. The journey is both the light and the dark. It is the success and the failure. It is the grace poured out upon you today and forever. Advent is the invitation to remember that darkness is not against us, but darkness is a part of all of us. Rather than fight it, let it be that which points back to the light burning in you, refining you, and keeping you warm. May today be the day you allow your old self to die; the day you forgive your past self for being so foolish; the day you let darkness no longer hide the hurt and allow it to amplify the light.

May grace and peace be with you on this journey. Amen.

Activity: Take about 5 minutes this week to sit quietly. Set a timer on your phone and sit still, not allowing anything to distract you. After the time is up, grab a journal or paper and write out the story of your life in chapter titles. Allowing for your journey to be written in a such broad stroke way will help to reveal the process before you. This may be difficult, this may be shameful or exciting, this may be overwhelming or at the very least insightful. As this year comes to a close, remember where you have been, and find hope in where you may be going. Take some time to tell God your story out loud, remembering where he has injected himself into your life and perhaps adding those notes. Gratitude for the darkness of life is important if we are to understand the role it plays in developing hope and joy.

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