Sermon for the 1st Sunday after Christmas 2018
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 Psalm 147:13-21 Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7 John 1:1-18
Watching some of The Christmas Story, I was reminded of “the year of the leg.” My father was a hospital administrator when I was in middle school. The incinerator at the hospital was small. They had to amputate a man’s leg and had no way of disposing of it. So my dad gave it to my brother Mike to bury it on our family farm. Mike said that he did it, but the next day a large box appeared under the Christmas tree “to Kit from Mike.” So he started playing up the idea of the leg being in that box. Every day, he would make some kind of comment about the leg. That was two weeks before Christmas, so I was really sweating it on Christmas morning. The box did not turn out to be “the leg.” But for the life of me, I can’t remember what it really was.
Nothing packs up and leaves town quicker than the Christmas spirit. We see decorations coming down from houses and yards. On this the First Sunday after Christmas, we begin to ask ourselves, Why? Why the tinsel and bells, why the parties and presents? There must be more. Yes, there is much more. God has begun to make clear the divine purpose in the world, the plan of the ages and how we are a part of it. God has not left us alone to our own devices, nor are we without meaning and direction for our lives. We are here for more than our own comfort and pleasure. We are a part of God’s great plan of redemption, reconciliation and the healing of God’s broken world. We celebrate the Christmas season until the Day of Epiphany - the 12 days of Christmas.
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God is presented as speaking the creation into existence. God speaks the word and it happens: heaven and earth, ocean and stream, trees and grass, birds and fish, animals and humans. Everything, seen and unseen, are called into being by God’s spoken word. When God created, he made something out of nothing. We are created beings. With God we are something valuable and unique, and apart for God we are nothing. If we try to live without God, we are abandoning the purpose for which we were created.
To parallel Genesis’s opening words, John presents God as speaking salvation into being. This time, God’s word takes on human form and enters history in the person of Jesus. Jesus speaks the word and it happens: forgiveness and judgment, healing and illumination, mercy and grace, joy and love, freedom and resurrection. Everything broken and fallen, sinful and diseased is called into salvation by God’s spoken word.
From this, we, as people of faith, realize God’s intentions toward the world. God’s will and Christ are seen as being eternal and can’t be bound by our current political or economic agendas. We are all eager to claim God. John’s prologue helps us understand the length and breadth and depth of God’s providence and existence. In the beginning, are not our wishes, dreams and plans, but God and God’s Word and God’s love toward the world that God chooses to create.
We are reminded that in the midst of life’s chaos, the world belongs to God. Christ is always with us, has been with us, since the beginning of creation. That news and that person are here called “light.” Even at Christmas time, where lots of places are cold and dark in the dead of winter, Christ’s light shines. In the midst of the worries of the world, of illness, sickness, and doubt, Christ’s light shines. How do we see and show that light to others? Is it welcoming a stranger to church during the holidays? Is it offering food to someone hunger? Is it being the hands and heart and feet of Christ, even on those days you don’t feel like it?
Hear the gospel reading from The Message – “The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out. There once was a man, his name was John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light. The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten. The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.” We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding— all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.”
On this Sunday after Christmas, what strikes me is – In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness will not overtake it. The darkness of evil never has and never will overcome or extinguish God’s light. And the darkness will not overcome …. Watching the news – murder, greed, violence - seeing the loss and the pain – knowing the light of Christ was going to win.
Some nights it takes a while to get over it - it takes me a while to process the darkness in this situation, but it takes less time for Christ’s light to show me the way. Christ’s light was present when strangers help the wounded….when we see people’s stories connecting in their loos and pain. I see the light of God’s love, the hope of God’s people making a difference in how we live our lives. Perhaps, all of us will see that light too.
How does the love and life of Jesus impact our lives today and into the future? This time of year encourages us to resolve to do things better. Almost all of our good intentions will be history in a week or two. But we also need to be aware that our lives are speeding away, faster and faster, evaporating as we speak. We are reminded that there is not much time left. That soon we will be gone. At the end of the year, we remember the other years. The photos reflect who we were, and yet who we are still. Inside, we are still here, still a part of this community of faith.
I challenge you - Don’t let a day of the New Year pass without connecting to others and to God, because it will be gone when it is over. Put into your days the things that you want there – no one else will fill them for you. Anything we have can be taken away from us at a moment’s notice. Some of the people in our old photos are gone, and one day we will be, too, and no one knows when. But today is ours, the month is ours, the year is ours to claim, to name, to celebrate.
Beginnings are important to us – the beginning of a new year, the first step on a long journey, the awareness of God in all things. But if we begin with love and goodness, if we begin with God, then the way will be clear. How did we spend last year? How will we spend the next? How will we use the most precious of God’s gifts – our talents, our love, our life and our time? We can make a long list of things to accomplish and commit ourselves to New Year’s Resolutions. Some are important in helping us know ourselves better and to know God better. But all we really need to do involves two things: Love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. That is what really matters. That is what counts in the eyes of God and in this community of faith.
Come Lord Jesus, enter into the newness of the coming year, enter deeper into our hearts and into the very being of our lives. Help us to not cling to old ways as we step into a new year. May we seek your face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with us involves being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Be present with us in our thoughts, words and deeds as we give ourselves over to this adventure of increasing awareness. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.