SERMON 12/26/10 CHRISTMAS 1A
John 1:1-18 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. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the feast at which we recall God dwelt with us as a child. That concept is not easy to grasp, but it is an essential part of our faith. After church one day, Grandma asked her only six year old grandson, “What did you learn in Sunday School today little Johnnie?” Johnnie replied, “We learned about the ten apostles, the twelve commandments, Moses and the parting of the letter C, and Noah and the Archangel. “Interesting,” she thought. Johnnie piped in with glee, “We also learned about God,” he paused briefly,”oh, and we learned about Jesus.” Pleased that Johnnie got some of the story right, Grandma was a little concerned that he missed some of the important nuances.
God in Jesus Christ. Theologians throughout the ages have wrestled with this idea that God was both fully divine and fully human in Jesus of Nazareth. There were councils of the church, which grappled with this doctrine over the centuries. It’s impossible for us to try and fully understand “God with us,” but it shouldn’t keep us for doing some exploring into the mysterious nature of inner life of God.
Today’s gospel writer gives us some interesting clues to understanding the Incarnation and especially this inner-life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – One God. John begins his Gospel account with these words, “In the beginning was the Word.” John used some language here to help explain our experience of God and the nature of the inner life of God. Words are necessary for us to explain, define, and attempt to describe. For example, when others hear us talk about ourselves we use adjectives, verbs, etc., and by so doing, they may come to know us. They may see who we are because our nature is revealed in the words. The Gospel writer makes it clear for us, “The Word was with God and the word was God.” John was using language to try and describe our who God is in terms of the mystery of God’s full presence in Jesus Christ Our Lord.
We have to use pronouns, adjectives and verbs to try and describe the mystery of God. There is other language that has been used to help us understand God, such as “Three in one and one in three,” “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.” Through our attempts to describe our experiences of God and our understanding of the nature of God, we are trying to give meaning to the mystery of God.
Anytime we attempt to speak of God, we struggle with mystery. Mystery is nothing new to us, there is mystery in our human interactions. A young woman looks into the eyes of her fiancé and senses the depth, and the uncertainty of their connection. At the same time, she is drawn deeply into a sense of belonging and longing for the love they shared. Mysterious feelings so deep that words can hardly describe. In our human limitation, we do not know everything about even the persons with whom we are most intimate. In fact, it is the very depth of our own mystery, that sometimes is most evident to us. When we speak of God, in some ways, we are left with only mystery and that is something we take on faith.
“God Incarnate” is our claim that God is fully and truly present and active in and through Jesus of Nazareth. Through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we come to know the depth of the love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the prayers, the miracles, the life, the faithful death on the cross, and the glorious resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we witness the everlasting love of God, but not as merely revelation, it is an invitation as well. By the mystery of the life of God, we are called to join in the dance of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Christ, we are able intimately to know God, and we are invited to commit our lives to and with God as Lord.
When it comes to The Lordship of Jesus Christ, knowing and committing are not the same. Many of those who followed Christ knew him. Many who rejected Christ knew him as well. For some who came to know God in Jesus Christ, they left all to follow Him. For others, their response was that of cautious optimism. For others, they responded with blind indifference. Some were living in darkness and even though the light of Christ shone brightly the path to grace, they rejected him.
Mary Magdalene risked it all to follow Our Lord, so did James, John and some of the other apostles. There were those who preferred the shadows and dimly lit places in which, they could live in both darkness and light. Peter struggled with this early on at Gethsemene and in the courtyard at Jesus trial. Others preferred to reject Our Lord because the darkness was more comfortable and less risky. Judas Iscariot, the Rich, young ruler, and others chose the dark places. When in darkness why did they avoid the light?
Light penetrates and shines on truth. It is reveals our failures. For some of Jesus’ followers, they failed to get to know him, and failed to realize that even in their darkness, they could still see glimmers of God’s grace and mercy. We too can see God’s grace. We are grace-filled creatures whom God loves. God desires that we come to know him. God calls us to live into the mystery of God’s revealing grace and mercy. Accepting the mysterious nature of God’s love fully revealed in Jesus Christ is simple. We open our hearts, we open our hands and we receive it. We accept that which we cannot fully explain. By letting go of our desire to have it all locked up, to have it all fully explained, we can fully receive the greatest mystery of all; the mystery that we are children of God adopted into the family of God.