Thursday, December 27, 2007

December 27: Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

The Third Day of Christmas marks the feast day of Saint John, who in his Gospel calls himself "the disciple Jesus loved." John wrote not only the Last Gospel but also three short Epistles that make up part of our New Testament. John's message can be summed up in a single command: Love One Another. His command is as real and applicable and hard to obey today as it was nearly two thousand years ago.

The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it, being illumined by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to life everlasting, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fittingly the Epistle is found in the very beginning of St. John's First Epistle, starting at the first verse:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Gospel reading for St. John's feast day is written in the 21st chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, beginning at the 19th verse:

Jesus saith unto Peter, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

St. John lived an amazing life. A simple fisherman became one of the inner circle of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, and at the foot of the cross was given the responsibility to care for Mary, the Mother of Christ. He was the first of the disciples to reach the empty tomb on Easter morning and became one of the great leaders of the Church, to whom God gave deep and disturbing revelations as well as the words to the Good News, the Last Gospel which rings with the Love of a Saviour to us, His people, nearly two thousand years later.

A Merry Third Day of Christmastide to you!

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