John 1:1-14 • December 25, 2011
Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
As I think about the Christmas story, one thing that always fascinates me is that this amazing story of Jesus begins in the tiny town of Bethlehem. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the impact that this one event has had on the whole course of human history. And what is most amazing is how incredible it is that, within a half mile radius of the manger, there were literally hundreds of people who were absolutely clueless about what was happening right in their neighborhood. People all around were wrapped up in the little details of their lives – what they were eating, where they were going to sleep, who was in town. While at the exact same time, eternity was breaking into time. God was entering the world.
Maybe things in the first century weren’t all that different than they are today? I mean, the Christmas season starts, at latest, in September and builds into a consumer frenzy in November – maybe it’s OK that it all comes to a crashing climax on Christmas Eve. We’ve mailed our cards, bought our presents, and given our parties. We’ve sung the carols, enjoyed the meals, and shared the gifts. Now, let’s relax. Let’s put away all this stuff, clean up the mess, and enjoy that welcome sense of relief that comes with a job well done. It’s time to move on. I mean, come on, New Year’s Eve is barely a week away!
But have we stopped long enough at this time of the year or any time of the year for that matter, to absorb what it means to believe that God comes to us in a baby named Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
All I want to say on a day like this is STOP! Can we just stop for a minute? Can we stop long enough to get past the lights and shopping and running? Can we stop long enough to actually experience the peace of Christ’s presence in the world? Can we stop long enough to experience the impact that the birth of Christ offers the world as John sheds light on in his gospel today?
John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John is picking up on a uniquely Greek concept of “the word.” It’s often revealing to look at the Greek origins of words like this in the New Testament. If we look at the Greek word for Word in John’s gospel, it is the word “logos” from which we get our word, “logic.” The divine Logos. Philosophers regarded this as the first principle that lies at the heart of all that is good, true, and beautiful in the universe. John is laying the groundwork that Christ was with God before the creation of the universe, and that he was even involved in the creation of the universe. The thought of God with us in Jesus before the creation of anything unveils an understanding of Christ’s presence in the world that revolutionary still today.
It is this word, says John, that took flesh and moved into the neighborhood. The idea of God taking on flesh through Jesus was not a onetime event for John – but part of an ongoing process, beginning with Jesus and continuing through every follower of Jesus from that time on.
The Greek word for flesh is the word, “sarx.” This Greek word doesn’t simply refer to our skin and bones and parts of our bodies that we can feel and touch. The word, “sarx,” refers to the totality of who we are; it refers to our mind, body, emotions, and spirit – everything that makes us who we are.
At this point you may be thinking, cool, thanks for the short Greek lesson Pastor Craig, but what does this have to do with anything related to Christmas. It’s important because we believe that our God didn’t simply stay in the safety of heaven. We believe that God didn’t choose to live in some sort of eternal suburb, away from the suffering and struggles of life that we all share and experience during our life in this place. God came to earth to share in our joys and sorrows, in our times of anxiety and peace, our struggles and victories, our suffering and strength.
We sometimes miss the reality of God with us that we celebrate at Christmas. Our attention at Christmas is centered on things that have little to do with the Christmas story. The Christmas story is not about buying a new turtleneck for Uncle Norm – although it may include a gift like that as a token of our love for him.
The Christmas story is about the redemption of the world. The Christmas story is about singing praises to our God, who created us out of dust. The Christmas story is about God who became human, God with us.
I don’t know why you are here today, though I’m glad you are and I’m thankful that the weather is a little better than it was last year on Christmas Day. Maybe you’re here because you feel a sense of obligation. Maybe it’s just a tradition for you to worship on Christmas Day. Maybe your spouse made you come. Maybe you’ve experienced a significant loss in your life this past year and you are trying to capture that old feeling that Christmas used to bring to you. I don’t know why you’re here, but I do know that there is good news for you today. For all of us.
The good news is not that the Visa and MasterCard bills won’t come for another 30 day or that all of the holiday parties and preparation is finally over so we can rest. The good news is that the God of all creation, the One who created you and loves you, knew that we could never find our way to God, so God went on the quest for us.
Today and in the days to come, let’s stop and give thanks for that good news. Usually when a baby is born, we like to hold the little one. This baby, this child born in a manger, came to hold us, to embrace us with a love that wakes us up and makes us new each day. Many missed the gift of God’s love for them given through this child in the tiny town of Bethlehem. Many still don’t notice that gift today. A gift that changed the world forever. A gift that you and I have been given, so that we can share it with others.
I pray that God coming to us and embracing us with his love through the Christ-child – is a gift that we will share with everyone we meet in the coming year. Amen.