Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 47:13-21; Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7;
St. John 1:1-18
Preached by Rev. Lou Scales
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 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.”
It is already the first week after Christmas. After being awe-struck by the unspeakable gift of the Christ child, we haven’t much time to devote to the simplicity and profound experience of, well, continuing to be awe-struck.
The sentiment that wants Christmas “to last all year long” is, at least, to a degree, the desire to bathe ourselves in the uncommon goodness and good cheer that seems to be all around us – to relish the momentary let-down of long held irritations and resentments, - to delight in the beauty and pageantry of extravagant generosity and almost inordinate good will. “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” The King of the Universe, by choice, has come into humanity, into this world in an absolute fit compassion and love – why shouldn’t we want this event to be a continual celebration?
And perhaps when we can see clearly, in the light of day, how to love peace and do justice, when we learn clearly the compassion that extends to all God’s people – perhaps then IT WILL BE a never-ending celebration.
But until then, we must be reminded, again and again, of the implications of the entry of God into human history, in the form of a baby – to be the light of the world – to show us the way past the darkness of sin and death, into the unspeakable presence of the Holy. “The light,” says John, “has come into the world.” So now, what do we do? How do we respond? What are we supposed to think?
It could be, that in pious gratitude, we think we should now speak of only holy things – only do holy things, or do everything we can to demonstrate to one and all that we are one of those few John’s Gospel mentions that really SAW the light. The temptation to walk down the path of doctrinal and theological purity – or to attempt it – is great, and has all the potential to be overwhelming. After all, with all the uncertainty the world can throw at us, doesn’t it make sense to enlist purity and piety in our defense? What can possibly be wrong with that?
Well, nothing, really, except that it flies in the face of most everything John’s Gospel has just told us.
Frederick Buechner gives us the stark, realistic reminder that the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, full of grace and truth – is really what the Incarnation means. And you’re right. This is untheological, it is unsophisticated, it is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is the way things are.
All religions and philosophies which deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves denied. Moses at the burning bush, was told to take off his shoes because the ground on which he stood was holy ground, and incarnation means that all ground is holy ground, because God not only made it, but walked on it, ate and slept and worked and died on it. If we become the children of God ANYWHERE, we become children of God HERE. If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here. And what is saved is not some amorphous distillation of our bodies and our earth, but our bodies and our earth themselves. Jerusalem becomes the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband. Our bodies are sown perishable and raised imperishable.
You see, one of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is attempting to be more spiritual than God.
The light that has come into the world is not something we can see – we can only see what the LIGHT LIGHTS UP – like the little circle of night where the candle flickers – the images of the things around us, the images of ourselves that are so often hidden from those around us, or even those images of ourselves that we so often hide from ourselves.
The light that has come into the world allows us to see ourselves, possibly for the very first time – to see who we are, to see WHOSE we are, and maybe even get a glimpse of the pathway ahead of us.
The Word did become flesh, and the Word does dwell among us. God has taken flesh and blood, joy and sorrow, and sanctified it, made it holy, and in the process, has allowed us to stand in the Presence of the Holy One, the Creator of all Things, even and especially us. And in that light, those who have walked in darkness for so long, may, for the first time, see where they are going. And that, too, is you and me. And that, too, is all those people around us who can become the people of God.
So the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s Only Son, full of grace and truth. And out of his store, we have received grace upon grace. It is that same grace, that as believers in this indescribable miracle of God’s power and might and love and compassion, we must give to the people of God. Especially those who hurt so deeply, who know sadness, and disappointment, who don’t know they are God’s children, until we show them. That’s what we have to do, that’s what we have to think, that’s what we have to live in response to the God who loves us enough to come here and be among us. Merry Christmas. And Happy New Year. AMEN.