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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth;
for the first heaven
and the first earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
2And I saw the holy city,
the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride
adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
God will dwell with them as their God;
they will be God’s peoples,
and God’s own self will be with them;
4God will wipe every tear
from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain
will be no more,
for the first things
have passed away.”
5And the one who was seated on the throne said,
“See, I am making all things new.”
Also that one said,
for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6Then the one said to me,
“It is done!
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the beginning and the end.”
The holy gospel according to John (1:1-14).
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2The Word was in the beginning with God.
3All things came into being
through the Word,
not one thing came into being.
What has come into being
4in the Word was life,
and the life was the light
of all people.
5The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
6There was a man sent from God,
whose name was John.
7He came as a witness
to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
8John himself was not the light,
but he came to testify to the light.
9The true light,
which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.
10The light was in the world,
and the world came into being
through the light;
yet the world did not know the light.
11The light came to what was their own,
and their own people did not accept them.
12But to all who received the light,
who believed in the name,
the light gave power
to become children of God,
13who were born,
not of blood
or of the will of the flesh
or of the will of a human,
but of God.
14And the Word became flesh
and lived among us,
and we have seen the glory of the Word,
the glory as of a father’s only child,
full of grace and truth.
The gospel of the Lord.
Today is a day of endings and beginnings. As we end our calendar year, not only do we prepare to begin a new one, but we are already right in the middle of Christmas and the birth of God with us. Add into that Advent being the beginning of our new church year, and we have a whole mess of beginnings and middles, even at this ending.
Our readings for today reflect this as well. A story of beginning creation in Genesis, new hope for a Messiah to come in Micah, a hymn of beginning creation and the Word made flesh in John, and newness in Revelation. The poetry of these readings pulls us into the mystery that comes with beginning and ending.
The vision laid out in Revelation feels magical, even, with the new heaven and new earth. For me, especially having grown up in the mountains of Colorado, it’s like the day after a snowfall—this morning, for example. Everything feels new and bright as the sunlight twinkles like glitter off the new flakes of snow blanketing everything. It’s not a complete restart, but it feels new enough to be one.
Maybe that’s the real truth of all of these readings—that beginnings and endings are never only one or the other, but instead encompass so much more. While we frequently think about the world in binaries—beginning and end, dark and light, dog and cat—that has not always been the worldview.
My favorite Hebrew poetry technique, called a merism, actually shows up all over the place in our readings, especially the reading from Revelation. A merism names two things typically understood as being at opposite ends of a spectrum or idea, like heaven and earth or male and female, dark and light, as a kind of shorthand to include everything in between.
So when we hear or read about God creating the heavens and the earth, we can think about the creation of the whole cosmos. And when the One on the throne in Revelation says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” we know it means not only the alpha and the omega, but also the beta, gamma, delta, epsilon—the beginning, middle, end, and every new beginning.
The God who comes to us as the Word made flesh isn’t just with us at the beginnings of birth and baptism and the endings of funerals, but instead the Word made flesh is with us in every moment of our fleshy lives.
The incarnation, which we celebrate particularly at Christmas, is God choosing humanity with so much enthusiasm that God takes it all on—the joy and the sorrow. God takes on our graduations, new jobs, relationships, sobriety and recovery, as well as the layoffs, failed tests, broken relationships, and royal mess-ups.
God is with us in all of that and each week as we celebrate communion, we receive a tangible reminder of that love and grace that chooses to be with us for it all. In the bread and wine, which are the body and blood of Christ, Jesus, the Word made flesh, joins in our flesh and journeys with us throughout the week—at every Table, bedside, and bus stop.
Jesus sticks with us no matter what, so that at the end of all things, we are not surprised to find God with us for what may not be an ending, but just the middle or even another beginning.