“Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.”
Candle Lighter: “All glory to him who loves us...”
Response: “…and has freed us from our sins.”
Scripture: Revelation 1:4-8
4 This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia.[a]
Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world.
All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6 He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
7 Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
And everyone will see him—
even those who pierced him.
And all the nations of the world
will mourn for him.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”
Reader: The word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
If you’ve been reading through the Bible this past year, we finally come to the book of Revelation. This book of John’s is one of the more bewildering books in the Bible. (John Calvin wrote commentaries on every book of the Bible but this one, maybe not feeling he sufficiently understood it.) It is most important to keep it in its context. Psalms is poetry and addresses our emotions. Acts is history and tells us of the movement of the Holy Spirit in developing the church. The Gospels are narrative and tell us the words and identity of Jesus. Romans addresses the intellect and expounds theology. Revelation, on the other hand, in its prophecy, appeals to our imaginations. Here John is trying to describe a vision he sees for which our language is inadequate. Our section opens with a phrase common to many New Testament writings, “grace and peace to you.” Have you ever asked yourself why those words in that order? Perhaps it is that God’s grace comes first and then his peace follows. You could not have peace without God’s grace. If I am not experiencing God’s peace today, perhaps I have not opened myself to God’s extending grace. The following phrase, “the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come” is a clear statement of our eternal Savior, reminiscent of God’s statement to Moses on Sinai “I AM, Who I AM.” That phrase has always given me confidence and peace that in the end, which may be after I leave this earth, God is in complete control. Things will not go off the rails. Notice, we have the presence of the Trinity here with the central focus being on Jesus, the victor over sin and death and the sovereign ruler of all the kings of the world. We are reminded again of the significance of the shed blood of Jesus. The Father has everything under control. It is easy to give power to God, when I’m thinking that God has always been and will always be. It can free my tendency to grab hold. This passage is so freeing. God loves us and freed us from our sins. What a wonderful message to end the year! John restates what he said earlier quoting a passage from the Old Testament, “I AM the Alpha and the Omega―the beginning and the end.” Notice how many times in this short pericope we have references to “was, is, is to come.” John was writing to people under severe persecution. In their (and our) chaotic world, John’s words give us a clear, the true perspective, the Almighty will return and rule with love and justice.
Music: “Angels We Have Heard on High” Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Our gracious Father in heaven, we are already thinking of Christmas as a “was,” we’re looking at today as an “is,” and this coming year as an “is to come.” Our attention span is so short, shallow, and simple and we move on to what’s next. But we’ve just read words to slow us down, words that take time, are profound, and ever expansive beyond our imagination. Help us Lord Jesus, to better grasp the significance of this day in your biggest picture. May the significance of your birth sink into our hearts more deeply than ever before. May we learn to linger with you over words and ideas and imaginations your writers of Scripture have given us. Thank you for the wonder and mystery of You and help us to not run away from it and be in a hurry to move on to something else. Grant the we could see more clearly where we are between Alpha and Omega. By the Holy Spirit, help us to see you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
― Daniel Sharp
© 2018 Dan Sharp – All rights reserved