In John 7:40‒52, Jesus is teaching at the Temple during Sukkot, or the Festival of the Tabernacles, which is a time of remembrance commemorating when the Jews wandered in the desert before arriving in the Promised Land. The Pharisees are in disbelief that a prophet could come from Galilee, seen as a rural backwater to the prestige of Jerusalem. An unlikely ally appears in the form of Nicodemus, also a Pharisee, who says they should not condemn Jesus before hearing him out.
Today, I wonder how much our culture has really changed from the judgment of the crowds and the Temple officials. Where do we gain and share our own opinions of others—in sound bites and tweets? How do we, like Nicodemus, cut through the noise in order to hear one another instead of putting them in boxes or affixing them with labels? In my job as a therapist, I’m blessed to hear stories of pain and suffering, as well as rejoicing and celebration. I’ve learned people are more than their societal labels and diagnoses. We are all God’s children with complicated stories and various callings. I’ve also learned that days when I see little hope in someone’s story marred by intense violence and anger, I’m amazed by their steadfastness and faith. It is in these moments I’m reminded of the lens of Nicodemus, and reminded of my calling to hold hope and love when it’s hard to find. This Advent, may we be open to the light of love that may come from seemingly unlikely places.
God, let us see the opportunity in everyone’s story, knowing we may find our greatest hope among those whom our society may be quick to ignore or cast out. Amen.
~ Laura Barclay