Christmas Day, 2015 (a revision of a sermon proclaimed Christmas Day 2012)
Have you ever been waiting? I mean DESPERATELY WAITING – waiting to hear the results of tests. And then the doctor or a doctor’s representative tells you, “GOOD NEWS – YOU, OR THE ONE YOU LOVE, ARE GOING TO BE… OK!”
What’s that like? Only the moment before everything that you knew had been in limbo – not knowing where you were at or how things would be. And then THE MESSAGE came – GOOD NEWS! How now will you live – with this good news?
Will we simply fall back into the way we were – allowing ourselves to be shaped by the weather, the markets, the ways other speak or don’t speak to us, by what we want or have or don’t have? Will we merely try to exist, attempting to make it to the next day?
Or, will we live?
In the light of such good news might we breathe deeply, dare to sing, move our feet, really look into someone else’s eyes, compose poetry, with wonder enter into the deep questions of life, not being afraid of what or whom we may encounter? How will we live in the face of GOOD NEWS?
I ask, because IT’S THE PRESENT, IT’S CHRISTMAS.
John’s Gospel is caught up in cosmology from the get go. John refuses to get trapped in one little place in history. John takes a panoramic view. It’s like we are allowed to be transported outwards – deep into space, far above the earth, perhaps even beyond our solar system. There we are gifted with an overarching view – greater even than the one from the space ship CHALLENGER.
And here’s our view – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” … In the beginning – not just our beginnings nor the beginning of the Church nor Judaism nor even the beginnings of humanity, nor even the first evolutionary stirring of life on this planet, earth. No, instead – THE BEGINNING. No one can go back any farther than that!
So let’s hear, let’s begin to glimpse this view.
In the beginning was the Word. That’s Word with a capital W. And that Word was with God. That Word was God.
For John, God is the Word – One who wants to communicate with we mere mortals, with we dusty human beings.
But how can God do this? How can this cosmic Creator of an ever expanding universe, so beyond our comprehension, explication, even our imagination, how can this great God communicate with us, we creatures fashioned from dust?
Listen. Let our ears, our hearts, our minds be on “red” alert.
The Word becomes flesh and tents among us, full of grace and truth. Can this be true? Would the great God dare to take on our mere flesh, ligaments and tendons, bones and feelings, our vulnerable and often messy mortality? Would this God, even then be willing to wait and wait and wait for we hard-headed, often stubborn, delusionally independent, sometimes heartless people to grasped by, embraced by, caught up by and transformed by this God’s ongoing act of love, this INCARNATION?
Would God do all of that with no guarantees, that we might respond, might see, hear, and so then love and forgive ourselves and others?
The answer is, YES! Miraculously – God loves us. God dares to become one of us – in order to communicate with us. God approaches – God draws near- to us!
It’s a bit like being at a Grade 7 dance. The boys sit in chairs on one side of the gym. And the girls sit in chairs or gather in clusters, huddled in groups on the other side of the gym. These are no longer little kids. Nor are they yet, adults. They may be unsure of what they hope happens in that moment – whether they want someone from that other side to have courage to approach them and ask them to dance or not.
But how different God is!
God not only takes the first step but all of the steps in becoming one of us.
At times we don’t notice this. God’s light is so brilliant. Occasionally we live by squinting, donning dark glasses or even crouching down in the fetal position to attempt to evade God’s brilliant light. We do this in so many different ways- by becoming so busy, so happy, so upset, so angry, so hurt.
But God is not deterred by our behaviour. Instead God’s love reaches out, down, beside – towards us, whatever it takes. God becomes ones of us in order to communicate with us in languages that we may begin to hear, to be grasped and embraced by, to be transformed!
You see – GOD LOVES US!
Not after we perform all the religious duties we should. Not after we get straight A’s, B’s or F’s. Not after our marriage or significant relationship is exactly the way we’d like it to be or even after our kids, or the people at work or our friends have finally appreciated us. Not after we finally treat others the way we should. NO. GOD LOVES US NOW!
And so, God comes to show us God’s love by becoming One of us.
God loves us even when, especially when much of the rest of our “news” is bad. The Doctor may come in the midst of our desperate waiting and give us devastating news. We may be caught up in patterns that hurt others and or ourselves. God comes in love right beside us – to help us, to lead us – to new and different ways in those moments and all their aftermaths.
God’s Word in the flesh does not shy away from us. Because God approaches there can be new life – confession, healing, reconciliation, hope. Isaiah tells us that even the ruins of Jerusalem can rejoice. So, too, eventually – Edmonton, Paris, San Bernardino.
To some this sounds ludicrous – too good to be true, a fairy tale, devised by people seeking a crutch, out of touch with reality.
But is it?
When teachers, mothers or even strangers sacrifice their lives as people brandishing guns enter schools, theatres, even nursing home facilities – is the love of God drawing near us in the flesh merely a fable?
As a father and son embrace after not speaking for 40 years? When two brothers who haven’t spoken to each other in 25 years tell each other they are sorry and invite each other’s families over for dinner? When Jews and Christians gather together to hear and respect each other’s stories? When a person of any age caught up in the throes of addiction goes to a meeting and admits, “My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic” and then is embraced by others who promise to accompany him on this new journey towards life?
The Word became and becomes flesh dwelling among us full of grace and truth. Look around. See!
Christ the Saviour, the Word become flesh has been born. He lives. His Spirit moves among us.
O God, open our eyes, our ears, our hearts to watch, to see to hear and live. Flood our lives with grace and truth.
A blessed Christmas to you! Amen.