Sermon for December 29, 2019
I think we all know the song the twelve days of Christmas. I find the repetition of this song a little boring after a while. I think that is why some renditions have chosen to put other themes and melodies into the song. A good example is the version by an a cappella group called Straight No Chaser. They added a Jewish song about a toy called the Dreidel as part of their version. I bring up this song because it is about the love one person had for another. So much love in fact that the gifts just kept on coming.
We are in the 12 days of Christmas, the time that includes Christmas day all the way through Epiphany on January 6th. I think we are fortunate that our readings for today keep us in that Christmas mood. Those of us who came to church on Christmas Eve heard the traditional story of the birth of Jesus from the gospel of Luke with its images that are planted in our minds. Today we read the meaning of the birth of Jesus from a more cosmic perspective. We listened to the beautiful poetry from John’s gospel. I like the fact that we get to have one more chance to ponder, to appreciate the birth of Jesus.
“In the Beginning was the Word” is how John starts his gospel. That phrase takes us back to the first words in the first book of the Bible, Genesis and the Creation story. John wants us to remember that everything God does on earth is about creating. God created a place for us to live and love and learn and give. Jesus’ birth is all about God’s creation. God’s salvation in Jesus is a part of the creation that God began so long ago.
God created such an interesting universe. Think of all the things we have learned about our universe over the last few years. Scientists saw a black hole swallow a star and they were able to produce an image of a black hole even though light cannot escape from it. Scientists are learning new things all of the time about the formation of planets. They now estimate that some galaxies formed more than one billion years earlier than they thought. And won’t our learning just continue? I am amazed by these things and amazed at the creation God has given us. Even with all the important things we have learned about the universe, there is nothing more important in creation than God sending Jesus to be among us.
“The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”" He was in the beginning with God. Jesus is referred to as the Word which is a translation from the Greek logos. Logos is thought of as God’s divine reason. It is God’s reason that established the creative order in the universe. I also found a definition calling logos God’s rationality or God’s self-expression. God created the universe according to God’s wishes. Jesus was and is part of the creative order that comes from God’s rationality or reason. When we use the teachings of Jesus to guide us and to help us, we have a better understanding of God’s reason and God’s desire for creation.
Jesus existed forever, before God created this world and Jesus brings us salvation as a part of this world, not something out of this world. God’s plan for us existed forever. It reminds me that God has always been with us and is always with us. While God came to earth during the time that Jesus was here, God never has left us. God is here now, living among us. God sent Jesus, God sent the Holy Spirit. God lives with us. I hope that you always feel God’s presence inside of you because that is what the gospel writer John was trying to tell us.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” The Word of God came to be with us in the form of Jesus. It is not enough to say that Jesus became a human. Jesus took on all the characteristics of humanity including the vulnerability that existed in the baby in Bethlehem. Jesus took on all of the characteristics of humans except for our sinful nature. God’s reason and God’s Word came to earth as one of us.
John was talking about our faith. Not everyone in the world did or does today “see” that Jesus is God. As followers of Jesus, we are the ones who “see”. We are the ones who understand that Jesus is God. Those that don’t believe in Jesus don’t experience God’s creation to the fullest extent.
One of the early church leaders, Irenaeus wrote “The Word of God, Jesus Christ, on account of his great love for mankind, became what we are in order to make us what He is Himself”. Jesus was close to God and he wishes to bring us closer to God. Jesus is the Son of God and wishes for us to be children of God.
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. Jesus is the light of God coming into our lives. We want the light of Christ to be like a light bulb going off in our heads. That is exactly what happens when we accept the Word of Jesus in our lives. We read scripture and we see the light of God, the light of Christ in our minds and in our hearts. In faith, we pray that God will always help us to see the light of God’s intentions for us.
Because this is the Church of the Transfiguration, when I think of the light of Jesus, I imagine the light that emanated from Jesus when he was transfigured, changed up on the top of the mountain. The strength of that light is incredible to me. I pray that God will send that light straight to my soul, that I may always follow his will and his ways.
One of those gifts we receive from Jesus is freedom. That freedom is described in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul wrote that our lives were subject to the law, the commandments. We had to follow a set of rules for we knew no other way to live. But Jesus changed all of that. Through the salvation that Jesus gave us, we are freed from our sins and given the grace of God’s love and mercy. When we live our lives in the love of Jesus, it becomes easier to follow the commandments. We are free. When we live in Jesus, we only want to do his will for us. One commentator wrote that “by a life of service and sacrifice, God’s Son, Jesus, turned the law into a means of reconciliation”. Jesus is the one who brings us closer to God.
As Paul wrote, we are children of God, with all of the benefits that gives us, all of the gifts that children receive from their parents. It fits so perfectly with the Gospel of John when he wrote, “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.” Once again a commentator wrote that “because Jesus knew God as their Father, those who by faith in Jesus found reconciliation could know without a doubt that they had been adopted as God’s children. “
As we continue through these twelve days of Christmas, I hope that you will choose each day to remember the gifts that God has given you. In that song, the twelve days of Christmas, each day the composer suggested that on that day my true love gave to me. I know that the composer was speaking of the emotional love we have for another human. But I wish that you would relate on each of these twelve days to the gifts that God has given you. There are so many gifts that we receive. Maybe it is God’s love for you. Maybe it is the grace that God has given you. Or perhaps it is God’s mercy. More than anything, John’s gospel would suggest that we give thanks for the Word of God as provided to us in the Scripture that helps us every day. The birth of Jesus brought us closer to God and we understand it through our Scripture. Amen.
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