Sermon Sunday December 25, 2022 Christmas Proper III
Lessons: Isaiah 52:7-10
Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sing For Unto us a Child is Born from Handel’s Messiah.
This was the song that immediately came to me this weekfor the sermon today, and there’s no way that I was going to attempt to sing it! Except I decided to live dangerously! It seems a majestic way to try and express the depth and beauty of all today’s lessons, but especially of today’s Gospel lesson from John. It might not be the typical Gospel that we associate with Christmas, something from Matthew or Luke seems more appropriate, no? Mary and Joseph getting to Bethlehem for the census, no room at the inn, Jesus being born amidst the cattle, sheep and donkeys, and wrapped in swaddling clothes, the heavenly hosts of angels singing gloria and hallelujah to the world through the shepherds, the shepherd’s visit to the scene, and the three wisemen bringing up the rear. It’s a veritable scene from Peanuts’ A Charlie Brown Christmas—full of I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, and all the hoopla of Santa, reindeer, gifts, sleigh rides, hot chocolate, and Christmas carols!
But the Gospel from John that we heard today has none of that. It has none of the familiar trappings of Christmas, and it just might be the Gospel that best expresses why we Christians even celebrate Christmas in the first place!
These verses that we heard today are the very beginning of John’s Gospel from what is called the Prologue. What is a prologue? According to oxfordlanguages.com a prologue is “a separate introductory section of a literary or musical work, OR “an event or action that leads to another event or situation.” And while both of these definitions are true when speaking about the beginning of John’s Gospel, let’s take a closer look at that second definition. The second one talking about an event or action that leads to another event of situation seems to fit the ticket! God so loved and loves us leads to Christ’s birth!
The definition goes on to talk about the origin of the word prologue being two words from the ancient Greek language:pro=before and logos=saying or before saying! Remember, we translate the Greek Logos to Word here. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus, the Word or the Logos, is a very expressive way that John has of proclaiming who Jesus is the world. The Word or the Logos had one meaning for the ancient Greeks and another for the Jewish people during Jesus’ time, but the two meanings brought Gentile and Jewish believers in Jesus together.
The word Logos for the Greeks “was to suggest that Jesus embodied the very mind of God. Jesus as the Word suggested Jesus was the wisdom or the divine reason at the heart of all things. For Jews, the claim that Jesus Christ was the Word, or the Logos, suggested a different set of connections and assumptions. Through God’s Word the heavens and the earth were created.” Says theologian Todd B. Jones.
And that takes us right back to the creation of the world in Genesis chapter one. And how did God create? He spoke, he said the Word, “Let there be light” and there was light. Jones further says, “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.” And Jesus is the Word. And the Word was spoken. And the Word was with God.
And yet the Word, the Logs, Jesus, came into this world. “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.” And there is the true mystery and beauty of this glorious celebration of Christmas! God became human! He, who at the beginning created all came to live among us. He literally loves us so much and wanted to reconcile with us so very much that he took on our limited human form to bring us into contact with him as truly human and truly divine! And he did it as a tiny, frail child. It is mind boggling if we think about it, if we truly sit and think about it! He, who created all condescended to come and live among us so we and he could be reconciled. He so wanted to be with us that he dwelt among us!
No wonder we have collapsed the story into something that is easier for us to digest around a cute little baby, some shepherds, and a few wise guys from the East. The real shock of it is almost too much to understand and even harder to explain! In fact, it really is a mystery with no satisfactory explanation except that “God so loved the world” that the Word came and dwelt among us.
G.K. Chesterton, a famous poet wrote a poem “The House of Christmas” that perhaps builds a bridge from our view of Christmases and the Great Incarnation of the Word for us.
The Place Where God Was Homeless
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honor and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam,
Only where HE was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
The world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and are,
To the place where God was homeless
And All men are at home.
And so, let us go and express the wonder of the child in the manger through our celebrations of the season. We see Peanuts did get it right in a way that we can understand. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Hallelujah! For unto us a child is born. Amen!