2nd Sunday after Christmas – 1/5/2020 – St. Paul’s
Love Christmas. Love this Gospel. For this is John’s Christmas Story. Or, perhaps it makes more sense to say that this is John’s version of the Incarnation. No shepherds, no star, no kings, no Bethlehem, no manger, no Joseph and no Mary. Had John been Rogers and Hammerstein he would have started his version of the good news of Jesus with the words, Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
And so we are transported way back to the beginning of time. To before the beginning of time. Before anything at all was created, before the world began, the Word, the logos, the Christ, was with God and was God.Was God. In the beginning, the Word was God.
Astonishing! We are meant to be astonished. We are meant to be hushed. All our fumbling theologizing about Christmas and the Incarnation is silenced by this pushing back of the story to the very beginning of all things.
For the very next thing we are told is that all things were made through him…. That would be as in all things, every thing and every one. Simply breathtaking.Which would explain everything about who we are. We are those people who have promised, and continually promise over and over again to seek and serve Christ in all persons. Isn’t that what we said at Jacob’s Baptism on New Years Day? Not some people, not most people, but all persons.
Most unfortunate, this good news John is proclaiming at the outset of the fourth gospel. Unfortunate because very often I do not want to recognize the Word, the logos, the Christ, in all persons. There are some persons I want not to be of Christ so as not to have to serve them!
So I wish John had not started at the very beginning. The beginning is not a very good place to start at all. It is hugely inconvenient to start there because it leads to all this seeking and serving of persons, quite frankly, we just would rather not seek and serve.Christmas is so much easier if you just stick to the nativity scene and think about cuddly sheep, and a cow in the background, and hay in the manger, and shepherds falling all over themselves with excitement like so many children under the Christmas tree, which, just as inconveniently, does not seem to be a part of the story.
Until you get to the part about light. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Martin Luther is said to have lit the first Christmas tree with candles so as to make it look like the stars in the sky!
Now when you light a candle you tap into an ancient and nearly never ending cycle of life giving energy. The chemical energy of photosynthesis in plants is passed up the food chain, for instance, to grazing cattle and then on to tallow in a candle. When the candle is lit in the gloomiest of nights, it releases cryptic sunlight and returns the complex fat or wax molecules to the form in which the plants found it in the first place – water and carbon dioxide that can be incorporated into living things all over again. (Roger Highfield, The Physics of Christmas [Back Bay Books, Boston: 1998] p.29)
And here’s the kicker: the Word, the logos, the Christ is in all of that. The logos is in the photosynthesis and the cryptic sunlight. Without him was not anything made that was made. Oh, my. That no doubt includes fruitcakes, that awful necktie from Uncle Joseph and every one seeking asylum at our borders.
This is more complicated than Christmas ought to be. But here it is, in black and white, Christmas as seen through the eyes of the fourth Gospel, John. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…and from his fullness have we all received grace upon grace.
Dwelt means something like pitched his tent among us. This means that when we pick up our tent stakes and move on, the Word can pull up and travel with us. And the fullness of this Word from which all life, all things, all light doth proceed, is shared with us all. As in all. Not some, not a lot, but like creation itself, all persons and all things receive this grace. Have received this grace. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound….
So here in this corner is the Word, and all that he has done since before time, in time and beyond time. And in the other corner is John, the man who was a lampstand. He was not the light but came to bear witness to the light.
So now, maybe we could do that too. We could bear witness to the light that comes from the Word who was with God and was God in the beginning. Maybe we could be like John and be a lampstand from which this light that comes from the Word who was with God and was God in the beginning can shine forth. Think here The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: think Bilbo Baggins, Frodo and Sam, think Gandalf and Aragorn, think Pippin and Merry, think, yes, even Boromir and Gollum.
We might ask, which character in The Lord of the Rings is most Christ-like? But then, that would be the wrong question. Each character of Middle Earth fighting the forces of darkness carries something of the light, the logos and the Christ within them. All together they are the body of Christ. Alone none of them can get the job done, move history and the world forward. Together the world is saved. Changed, but saved.
This is what we are called to be and do: bear witness to the light and do all in our power to help others do so as well. This is best done by seeking and serving Christ, the Word, the logos, in all persons, everywhere at all times.
None of us can be Christ-like unto ourselves. Yet, we each carry some particular Christ-like characteristic. We each carry a piece of the light. All together we can make up a Christ-like community. That is why when we baptized Jacob as a new member of the Body of Christ the whole body is changed and made new. That is why it is so important to take the promises we make in baptism seriously – especially the promise to do all in our power to support one another in our lives in Christ. Because the piece of Christ that I need is the piece you have and the piece you need is the piece I have. Together we can strive for justice and peace for all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. We are the body of Christ.
Together we make up the mosaic that is the Word, the logos, the Christ, for the world. Merry Christmas! God bless us every one. Amen.
Here, in this place, in this time, we meet God:
the One whose Word runs swiftly over the rough streets of the world.
Here, in this place, in this time, we see God:
the One who transfigures our darkness into light, our mourning into joy.
Here in this place, in this time, we know God:
the One who gathers us in from our wanderings.
Just as God holds nothing back in giving us
the fullness of God’s own self,
let us offer all of our lives in these our gifts and tithes.
In this way, we join in the great company of God’s beloved people.
Into this world and yet unmarked New Year
go with the confidence of God upon Your hearts,
with courage to share God’s shining love,
and hopefulness to see God’s nearness now.
And the blessing of God Almighty…
The true light has come into the world to light the way home.
Go forth from this place reflecting the brightness
of Christ’s presence in your hearts.
Go forth from this place warmed
by the promises of God’s eternal care.
Go forth from this place joyous,
for you are a part of God’s “great company.”
go forth from this place sharing the glory and grace of God,
who creates, redeems and sustains.