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  • Rev. Dan Gates

In the beginning

An image showing a starry night being poured into a rustic wooden cradle, with the title "In the beginning"

Genesis 1:1 / John 1:1

In the beginning...

Those words are loaded with potential and meaning: in the beginning, a time before all the history that has since unfolded, before the wounds we carry with us were inflicted, before the joys of life burst onto our horizon. The beginning is a time outside of time, a moment when all that could be was compressed into one single point. In the first ‘beginning,’ out of sheer creative, playful, joyful love, God spoke the cosmos into being. From the imagination of the divine burst forth skies and seas, birds and trees, fish and whales, colours and textures and sounds and sights. And finally, human beings, which God crafted carefully, lovingly, in God's own image. From that beginning came all the wonders we can behold, and the eyes with which we behold them.

A fragment of an early version of John's Gospel (Rylands Library Papyrus P52)
A second beginning

Then we read of a second ‘beginning.’ This second telling of the story, by the Gospel writer John, is a thinking again of that first beginning. Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babel, the great flood, Abraham and Sarah, exile and exodus, kings and prophets, all of these things have unfolded before John puts his theological imagination to work. History was well under way. But something had interrupted that history. An event had taken place which forced John to rethink all that had been and all that will ever be: the coming of Jesus the Christ. So John goes back to the beginning with new eyes: 'in the beginning was the Word.' Read the rest of that chapter (and Gospel) and you’ll discover a new beginning was always wrapped up within the first beginning. Which makes me ask the question:

could there be more ‘beginnings’?

Advent 2022

On Sunday 27th November Advent began. But, of course, Advent has been around for a long time. This is a time of year that encourages us to go back to the beginning with new eyes, looking for new ways to understand our place within the cosmos.

What has come into your life since last Advent? Look back on the events of the past year and bring to mind some of the things that have left their mark on your life. There might be moments of joy, of exciting experiences, of love and friendship and laughter. There might be painful moments, deep wounds of betrayal, loss, loneliness, illness and pain. As we embark on another Advent journey, these things have happened; we are not blank slates waiting for our lives to be written. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look again at the beginning. Bringing all our joys and sorrows, we listen again to those words: in the beginning. And as we hear them, we wonder: could my life be about to begin again? Could something new arise within me, a healing of old wounds, a new opening of exciting possibilities? Could this beginning be like the first one, full of potential waiting to be spoken?

And it all begins and ends and begins again with Christ. That is the great mystery that is unfolded for us at Christmas. The beginning has a name: Jesus the Christ. And when he comes, “old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting.” (Howard Thurman, The Mood of Christmas).

What is in your beginning this Advent?

A prayer for Advent week 1:

Creator God,

You breathed into being all that is, all that was, all that will ever be.

And in Jesus Christ, you showed us that all things are being made new,

That you are not yet finished with your creation.

As we ponder the beginning:

Help us to discover new possibilities within our old stories.

Heal the wounds we carry with us.

Come close to us when we feel alone.

And give us imaginations that can begin to grasp how wide and high and long and deep your love for us truly is.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our beginning and our end.


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