2nd Sunday of Christmas
January 5, 2014
John 1: 1-18
Christmas is pretty much over for the rest of the world, and most people have already failed to keep many of their more ambitious New Year’s resolutions. But today is actually the 12th day of Christmas, and the lights and decorations come down after Three Kings Day on January 6. So in keeping with the idea of saving the best for last, today we get the Christmas story according to John’s Gospel. As you can see, it doesn’t have a manger or a donkey or angels in it. This section of John’s Gospel has traditionally been called a “Prologue” to the Gospel, but I’d like to argue otherwise. I think that in this short series of verses, John neatly captures the whole story of the Incarnation – God with us, Jesus as God, coming to be with us.
I want to talk about two things in this reading this morning: first, what astonishing thing this tells us about God, and second, what astonishing thing it tells us about ourselves.
There are so many religions in the world. From the most primitive to the most philosophical, I think it’s fair to say that they all seek to understand a God and a universe that often seems mysterious. Some see God as capricious – loving one moment and punishing the next. Some see God as needing to be pleased, asking us to give our dearest treasures or go to extraordinary means to make this God happy. Some see God as a distant creator who put a fine machine in motion and stands back to let it work its fabulous way, or as a disinterested observer of humanity, uncaring and slightly disdainful of the complexities of human life. None of these is the God we meet here in John’s opening poetry.
So many of the world’s religions separate the spiritual and the physical – spirit good, physical bad – and tell us that we must purify our bodies and our bodily desires if we want to be godly. This is not the God we meet here. The God we meet here comes to us, unbidden, and in person.
The God we meet here is both mysterious and concrete. This God is the speaker of the universe that we see around us and that challenges us to plumb its depths. The commercial tells us that our eye can see a lighted candle from 10 football fields away. This God is the light that pierces every darkness, from the darkness of space to the deepest darkness of our hearts. This God does not shy away from the physical world, but embraced it so totally that this God came to be part of it. The images of Jesus’ being fully human and fully divine have included everything from God in a human suit – just scratch the surface and the brilliance of God will shine out – to just another human being, given a special mission by God to teach God’s way and show us that it is often not the way of the world. The reality is another mystery, perhaps impossible to explain, something that can only be experienced. This reality is one that makes being human something of dignity and respect, because God actually came to live among us as truly one of us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” or “lived” among us…”full of grace and truth.”
That truth is our truth. The Evangelist tells us that even though the Word, Jesus, was the creator of the world, the world did not recognize him. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,” That means that we, who trust that this astonishing event really is part of our story, have become God’s children, too. So where the other Christmas stories are about Jesus becoming one of us, John’s Christmas story is about us becoming one of God’s. There may be lots of things that describe your life –your ethnic background, your social and economic status, your education and work – but the one thing that defines who you are in the cosmos is that you are a Child of God. It is God’s work, it is God’s power, it is God’s claim that makes it so. You didn’t earn it, it is God’s gift. No matter how good (or not) we have been, or how much we fail to be faithful to our promises to God, God has named and claimed us. We are forever joined to God’s family through the work of Jesus, who came to be one of us. In his miraculous birth and miraculous resurrection, Jesus asserted the power of God to make us anew. And we have been blessed to receive grace on grace that we might live as new, beloved people of God day by day. That is your truth. I want you to say to yourself, “I am a Child of God, loved and respected by God, and part of God’s plan to change the world.” Go ahead. Say it. Then turn to the person next to you and say, “You are a Child of God, loved and respected by God, and part of God’s plan to change the world.” (Time for this to happen).
Instead of resolutions this year, I want to challenge you to look at yourself in the mirror when you brush your teeth every day and say this to yourself, “I am a Child of God, loved and respected, the recipient of grace on grace, part of God’s plan to change the world.” Let this be the year that the Christmas story includes your new birth. Amen.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.