A Faith from the Margins to the Web bible study for the First Sunday after Christmas, Year B
Contributing Authors: Sheryl and Alisha
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
“Well, first thing I will say is that I know there’s God,” said Sheryl, “I’m a witness and I will give testimony to that!”
“I know!” said Alisha, “Me, too. I’ve been seeing Him work through other people, and that makes you want to seek Him for yourself.”
Alisha and Sheryl spent many hours a week in the same setting but they had never met; one was a student and the other a part-time service worker, nearing retirement, in the same University. They had both come to Red Door that Friday for bible study and lunch, just to be a part of this project which intrigued them. Within seconds, it was clear that they had far more in common than anything that divided them. It was also clear that what stood out the most in this Gospel for both of them was love. As Alisha described it, “the Love given so freely by God.”
Sheryl added, “another word that stands out for me is peace. It took me so long to get to a place where I could feel peace, but now I’m beginning to really feel that…it only took 58 years!” she joked.
“But, once you have that peace, you never want to let go of that!” Alisha agreed.
Alisha continued, “I appreciate the part where John acknowledges who he is and who he is not. He isn’t the light, but he comes to be a witness and testimony to the light. I think that’s what we are all called to be: lights in a dark world.”
“Amen!” echoed Sheryl, “and I do try to do that. It’s why people call me ‘Grandma Sheryl” because I try to always have a kind word, a good word for people who need it. And, it feels good because I show love, and I feel love. Everyone comes to me for prayer, ‘please pray for me’ they ask, the young and old. That’s a beautiful thing.”
“That is beautiful!” said Alisha. “I’ve been trying to read the Bible and pray more, and I’m starting to feel that peace, too. So many people are going crazy, feeling so lost with all that’s going on with the president, with the world. They start to feel hopeless.”
That warmed Sheryl’s heart: “I love hearing that from you, the younger ones! I always tell my children, if you can stay with the positives, you won’t be following the crowd, you’ll be leading with love. And they are leaders, just like you!”
“It’s hard” said Alisha, “Sometimes I’m the one person out, who isn’t like the rest, but then I remind myself I know who I live for. What I get from living for God is greater than the criticism I get from others. It helps me to see Christians who really live into it, though, instead of people who want judge.”
“Only God can judge” said Sheryl, “you tell them even Tupac said that!” she added as they both laughed.
Alisha added, “I like this part: ‘We all have received grace, grace upon grace.’ God gives us grace every day. It isn’t because we deserve it, or just for people we like…it’s a message for everyone.”
“The world can feel hopeless, but it isn’t hopeless,” Sheryl chimed in as well, “People get despondent, like over Trump in the white house, but we have to remember God is over him, too! And we have to pray for everyone. We have to pray for him, too. People forget that but maybe that means he needs prayer most of all!”
As their study together came toward a close, Alisha and Sheryl named the words where they see God:
“I see God through my Children and Grand-children.” said Sheryl. “I pray and give my thanks to God every day and every night. I keep a grateful spirit and use my words to pray to God.”
Alisha said, “My word would be ‘service’ because when I see people who live into their faith, who prepare meals and help others, and do work to make their communities a better place, that is how I see and know God.”
The wisdom of the ages flowed between this pairing of a college student and Grandma to the community as they shared their stories of church-going, struggles, favorite foods and family stories. Love comes to unite us, to bring peace, to dispel the dimness of our vision with the hope of eternal light and life: “I love our conversation!” Alisha said at the close, “I told you, everyone comes to Grandma!” added Sheryl.
And with that, they prayed.