WE’RE GOING TO EXPERIENCE
THE WONDER OF ADVENT TOGETHER
Last Advent I encouraged you to memorize John’s famous prologue. You may be surprised, but I am feeling led to go there again.
Let me tell you a story. My friend Greg tells of being taught by Howard Hendricks at Dallas Theological Seminary. The first day of class Hendricks gave the students one passage of two verses and told them to find ten observations. They do. The next day he tells them to find ten more, and with much more effort they do. He repeats the assignment the third day and they are amazed — how can they possibly? Have they not exhausted its depth? No, they find they have not. They look at every word, they look at cross references, they thoroughly examine the context. When he repeats the assignment the fourth and fifth day they have to really push themselves. They now have the passage memorized, so they ponder it throughout the day. They “draw” the passage. To their amazement they find the Word “inhabits” them, “tabernacles” in them, and is changing them. Hendricks has made his point. God’s Word is as deep as the ocean and as it lives in you, He lives more fully in you, and you are changed. And isn’t that what we long for, especially at Advent?
If ever a passage was as deep as the ocean, it is John’s prologue.
Matthew Henry quotes a Plato philospher: These opening words of John are worthy to be written in gold. These words changed his life from “loose notions of religion” to true faith. They were written with such “authority and majesty in style, that his flesh trembled, and he was struck with such amazement that for a whole day he scarcely knew where he was or what he did.”
Matthew and Luke tell us what happened at Christmas, beginning gently, but John thunders down with who Jesus is and why He came.
Here’s an application for those Christmas letters some of you will write. Consider, instead of writing what you did this year, telling how God is at work in your heart. Just a few sentences — perhaps a book or study that impacted you and why. Ask for prayer where you are weak. Keep it brief, illustrate with pictures, but let your friends see your heart, including, if possible, your heart for them. If you are snail mailing, add a personal written sentence on why you love them!
You may remember the pivotal conversation I had with my friend Twila (on the left at my home last Christmas). Twila, for those of you who are new, memorizes whole books: Romans, James, Hebrews, 2 Corinthians….She walks her dog Amos morning and evening. Before she goes on her walk she memorizes her portion for the day, and then she practices and practices as she walks. She also reviews past memory work. She used to memorize in the morning and listen to a book on tape in the afternoon, but she said, “I so loved the sense of His presence during my memory time that I decided I could memorize during both walks!” Twila is the fragrance of Christ, and I believe it is because in a mysterious way Jesus is the Word and He lives and breathes in her. Tim Keller said, “In Psalm 119, that long psalm all about the Word, the psalmist seems to be worshiping the Word, lifting up his hands to the Word. Why? The Word is Jesus. So as you memorize and meditate, you will find yourself wrapped in His arms. And out of your mouth will flow what you have stored in your heart.
Each Sunday write out on an index card the passage for the week. You may want to put it on your phone audibly and in written form so it’s always nearby. Here’s this week’s passage in the ESV, but do it in the translation of your choice.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Here’s the schedule:
December 6: John 1:6-8 (John the Baptist)
December 13: John 1:9-11 (The Light)
December 20: John 1:12-13 (Children of God)
December 27: John 1:14 (Word Became Flesh)
Jan 3: New study. Maybe the Song –
I am convinced that together we will help each other go deeper into this rich passage, and that putting it in our hearts will allow us to be with Him, to experience His presence, and to see His fragrance grow in our lives and pour out to others. Isn’t this what Christmas is truly about? To prepare your heart, listen to this:
1. What stood out to you and why? Are you with us in this?
2. Share one thing for which you were thankful this Thanksgiving.
3. Write out John 1:1-5 on an index card, or for your phone — something nearby.
Monday-Thursday Bible Study
4. Begin memorizing, meditating…
In the Hebrew “the Word” is Logos, which Tim Keller compares to the maker’s instruction manual. How often have I ignored instructions to a product only to have to go back and look at them. I bought a solar lamp to illuminate the sign at the top of my very dark road, but it did not turn on. I finally went back, looked at the “Maker’s Manual” and realized I had not “peeled off the plastic covering on the solar panel.” Voila. That night there was light!
5. Share a time recently when God’s “Instruction Manual,” the Word, brought sense or direction to your life.
6. What do you think God’s purpose for Advent is in your life? How is this different than the world?
7. As you meditate on John 1:1-2, make ten observations.
Keep memorizing — share any new insights. Soon we’ll ask you to write out what you have done.
8. Compare John 1:1-5 with Genesis 1:1-3.
A. What similarities do you see?
B. When you consider Genesis, what might be one reason Jesus is called “The Word?”
C. How do you see the mystery of the Trinity in these passages?
9. Matthew and Luke tell the Christmas story historically. They begin gently with the genealogy or the birth, but this “Son of Thunder” is different. Why, according to John 20:31?
10. Write out what you have memorized so far.
11. Find nine things about God from these opening five verses. Share any meditations on each.
12. How does verse 5 give you hope in these perilous times?
13. Compare this passage to Hebrews 1:1-4. What similarities do you see?
Use John 1:1-5 to pray. Use the ACTS formula if you like. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.) And do it in secret. Make this an Advent pattern.
15. Choose one or both sermons. The first is by Jim Hamilton and is an excellent overview of the whole prologue. I am also going to give you the option of the free Tim Keller sermon we heard last year, for I know I can listen to him again and again. (By the way, Gospel in Life is having a sale through tomorrow on all sermons — 30% off if you type in thanks in the promo blank.)
16. Write our your memory passage.
17. What is your take-a-way and why? How is this impacting you so far?