Advent Devotions: Witness to the incarnation

Advent 2015. Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).     

By Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM  

John 1:6-9, 15-18

An effective prologue announces the key themes and persons of the subsequent story and sets the dramatic tension. It draws us into the following drama almost in spite of ourselves.

The prologue to the Fourth Gospel does indeed lay out key themes and characters and set the dramatic tension. Take its picture of John, so different from the picture in the Synoptics: Absent are the camel hair, the dwelling in the desert, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and death at the hands of Herod. The prologue’s picture of John is distilled to the essence:

  • his credentials (he is sent from God)
  • his task (to bear witness to the light)
  • the content of his witness (the light is Jesus Christ God’s only Son who has come into the world)
  • the goal of his witness (so that all may believe).

Those points provide our guide through the Gospel that follows, and, I propose, invite us to look around and find other witnesses to the incarnation right where we are today.

As I write this, I have just returned from the service of resurrection for one of our Sisters, Mary Louise, who died the other day at age 101. Her life witnesses to the incarnation by teaching me these things: Be here now. Pay attention. Open your heart to the needs around you. Join together with others. Serve. Hang in there through thick and thin. As I ponder her long life, her witness encourages me that I can do these things in and through Jesus Christ.

I invite you to look around for witnesses to the incarnation in your own life. Who are they? What do they reveal?

And then ask yourself: “How could I today bear witness to the incarnation?”

Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM is professor of spiritual life and director of the program in Christian Spirituality at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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