Today, I start reading through the Bible, in chronological order, in one year. I have a 'chronological' Bible - where the passages and books are ordered in the most probably time line. A traditional Bible has the books ordered by genre - the history book are all together, the prophets are all together and so forth. But when you read a Bible like that cover to cover, something gets a little lost. For example, the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament) actually go with the reigns of the various kings talked about in the books of Kings and Chronicles. And 2nd Kings and both Chronicles talk about the same kings from different view points.
I've done this before, sort of. I read story by story through the Hebrew Scriptures. And it was amazing how much sense the prophets made when read in context with the story of the king to whom he prophesied.
It's January 1 and the first reading is Genesis 1-3, the two creation stories and the 'fall' story. I'm preaching this Sunday and the gospel text is John 1, so I can't help but hear John 1 when I read Genesis 1. In the beginning....Genesis tells us that God created the heavens and earth. In the beginning...John says the Word (read Jesus) was with God and the Word was God and all things were made through him. In the beginning, God was there. In the beginning, Jesus was there. In the beginning. And the Spirit of God hovered, waiting for the Word to be spoken, for the command to bring forth light.
In the beginning, God created. God formed relationship with all creation, with the sun and the moon and the earth and the stars, and the water and the land, and the plants and animals, birds and fish. And then God formed a relationship with humans, a deeper, more intimate relationship. God drew humans in, gave them a part in the creative act - naming, caring for, tending the creation.
In the beginning, we were made in the image of God. It's the start of a beautiful love story, of Lover and Beloved. Of gracious love that gives all good gifts. Of a love that never fails, even when the Beloved fall and strays and just plain ignores the Lover. It's the story of a Lover who will go to great lengths to convince the Beloved just how deep Love is.
Sure we end with the first human couple expelled from the garden, but not until God has provided them with the clothing they need. And while the garden may be locked and the way back guarded, God doesn't remain locked in the garden. God goes with them. Emmanuel - God with us. Not distant, leaving us to our own devices, but with us in the messiness of our humanity.
In the beginning, God with us.