The text for this sermon is John 1:1-18.
The first chapter of John is basically John’s Christmas story, minus all of the fun stuff, like Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Angels, Cribs and Kings. John isn’t like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, a guy who can’t get enough of Christmas kitsch. John is more like Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice, someone who doesn’t have a lot of time for that nonsense.
Like Luke and Matthew, John is trying to get across the same mind blowing idea, what does it mean that God got small like us? Whereas Matthew and Luke use the stories of Jesus’ birth to play with this idea, dancing around the edges, John goes right to the meat of it. God is huge, big, out there since before the beginning of time, even before creation, whatever that means. And somehow, that huge God out there comes to us in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, right here.
While in John’s Christmas story there are no Mary, Joseph or shepherds, there are characters. John’s characters are the Word, the World and the Light. The Word was something John had learned about from his Jewish teachers before he ever heard of Jesus. Rabbis taught that the Word is that part of God that takes the ideas of creation and makes them work. Gravity that holds us to the earth, photosynthesis that changes light into food for plants, lungs that change air into oxygen for life, all Word. The Word is also how God interacts with us, drawing us into relationship. The Word was the promise made with a wandering Aramean named Abraham. The Word was the law given to Moses on Sinai. The Word was the warnings given to the prophets about the wrong roads that Israel was choosing.
The World is the second character in John’s Christmas story. What John means by world is more than rocks and trees, sky and mountains. He means our world, humanity and everything that humanity interacts with in God’s creation around us. The World is the air we breath, the water we drink, the animals we encounter, the people that fill our life with goodness and complications. The World is our entire experience of what God has created. The World is the trace of God right here. We can’t see God, but we can stand on a cliff of a mountain, take in the breathtaking view and know there is a God. We can’t touch God, but we can hold the child that has changed our life with her birth and know there is a God. We can’t hear God, but we can hear a choir sing an inspiring anthem and know there is a God. God might be an idea right here in our head, but it is an idea that comes from our experience in the World.
The third character in John’s Christmas story is Light. Light is how the Word get’s things done in our World. God is constantly turning on the light in the rooms of our life. As any three year old trying to get to sleep could tell you, light is good. Light is reassuring. Light makes us feel better. Light makes God’s presence known. When we don’t have light, we have darkness, we can’t see or refuse to see God’s presence in front of us. People without light, stand at that mountain cliff and see only brown rocks and green trees that might have some value if coal could be found underneath. People without light, hug their child but can only think about college expenses and tax write offs. People without light read their bulletins during choir anthems. Light is how God takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
With these characters, allow me to retell John’s Christmas story. In the beginning our God having created a stage, brought on the actors, us, to make that creation the World. The Word connected us to the World, instructing the trees to breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. The Word connected us to each other, giving us laws to organize around so we could thrive. The Word connected us to herself, God, giving us promises to trust and messengers to remind us of those promises. The Word did all this in our World by casting Light, whenever darkness threatened to overcome us. The Light taught us how to love God, God’s creation and each other.
People rejected the Light. It turns out we would rather live in darkness than in light. God’s love complicates things, obligates us to God and to each other. The Light requires that we not take full advantage of the World, to let fields rest for a sabbath year so nutrients can return, to spend resources of time and wealth on those who contribute little to society, the sick and the elderly, to welcome the stranger and the immigrant even though their ideas and numbers threaten us. The World wanted security from abundance rather than trusting the balance the Word had created. The World rejected the Light the Word brought.
God loves the World and will not be rejected by the World without a fight. God is so serious about this that God does an amazing even unthinkable thing. God’s face throughout time to humanity, God’s wisdom, God’s Word, comes to us as flesh, people, humanity. The Word in existence since before time itself, now enters our World, walking, talking, listening, learning, teaching and touching us, people, humanity. The bigness of God out there, becomes small right here with us in Jesus.
True to form, the World rejected the Light of the Word, killing the flesh that was Jesus. The World chose darkness again, but not all of the World. Disciples followed the Light. Crowds followed these disciples. Communities were created by these crowds and they sought the Light. They listened to the Word. They wanted to live in the World as God had hoped. They believed the Word became flesh in Jesus. They believed that light is better than darkness. They trusted love and sacrifice over selfish gain. The Church in the World believed the Word and accepted the Light. When they did, they saw the very essence of God, God’s glory, and received the greatest of gifts, grace upon grace.
The Word, God’s creative energy came into the World as Jesus, so we would know Light and love. Those who won’t believe this are living in darkness still, shutting their eyes tight to keep the light, God’s love from complicating their existence. We have a clear choice, to accept the Word and live in the World with Light or to insist on living a small life without God in darkness. There is no halfway bargain. No dimly lit rooms. Either God out there has come to us as God right here in Jesus to save us or none of it is true and we can’t be bothered. In John’s Christmas story, we are all asked to make room in the Inn for baby Jesus. If we do, we will see God’s glory and receive grace upon grace, gifts even better than frankincense, gold and myrrh. Merry Christmas and may 2015 be a year of blessing and peace. Amen