Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously says,
“This above all: to thine ownself be true. And it must follow as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Act 1, Scene 3.
Hope often springs from the words given us by a person who is true to self and true to his word. We can count on his or her integrity. The apostle John whom most assume to be the author of the gospel of John, and who is known as “the apostle Jesus loved,” opens his gospel with the famous words, “In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God from the beginning. Through him all things were made… “ John did not develop a chronological account of Jesus going from Christmas birth to East resurrection but rather shared a more philosophical, thematic understanding showing how Jesus, the Word that created at the beginning, the Word materialized in the Christ child, and the Word coming in the end, is a word we can trust and in which we find hope. Jesus is true to himself and cannot be false to others, us. His promises, his “I am”s are foundations for our hopes.
Matthew started Advent with genealogy and fulfilled prophecy through heritage.. Mark started Advent with Scripture and fulfilled prophecy through time. Luke started Advent with experiences of the Holy by Zachariah and Mary and fulfilled prophecy in our everyday lives. John starts his gospel with the importance of integrity between word and action. This theme of word and actions is embedded in our culture. “Words are cheap!” we say, shrug our shoulders and doubt. “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me,” we yell at the kid teasing us and we walk away wounded with our head held high, hiding the tears. Jean Val Jean sings, “Who am I?” in Les Miserables – my prison number tattooed on my arm or the reformed person I am trying to be? Audrey Hepburn sings, “Words, words, words…” in My Fair Lady and our hearts agree.
Advent is a time when words are hugely in focus as harbingers of promise. “What do you want for Christmas?” we ask our children or friends.
“I’ll be home for Christmas,” we sing and realize this year the end, “if only in my heart” may well be the truth. Which ad can we trust to be telling us the truth about a product we are interested in? Our heads swirl. It is easy to point to “the other” at this season and remember hopes unmet, promises broken, dreams bashed, but I would challenge us to honestly exam the integrity found in the word of God, in the life of Christ. He spoke and the blind saw, the deaf heard, and the dead rose. Perhaps we look at that tiny babe in a manger and all the fantastic prophecies that he will be the promised Messiah, the descendant of Judah, the fulfiller of promise and we weigh those promises against the television news reports of the world we live in. It is so easy to be skeptical and doubtful and Grinchy. Our hearts need to grow three sizes. The gospel of John pulls us back from the microscope of today to a cosmic view of history that gives hope. The Word was there at the beginning. The Word is active in our world today. The Word will come to take us to our real home.
May our words be words of integrity during this season. May we build hope. May we point others not to presents under a Christmas tree but to a God of integrity that holds our lives in his hand and walks beside us…today! Blessings.