Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26 Sermon (Christmas 1)

Most of our festivities are over for Christmas.
· We have opened our presents.
· We have had our feast.
· Our relatives have returned to their homes.
· Things quiet down and we begin to think about tonight’s snow and the festivities around New Years...

But the Gospel for today bids us stop and ponder the birth of Jesus anew, but not in what we have just celebrated. We have experienced both Matthew's and Luke's infancy narratives around Jesus and his birth.

But today, John's Gospel makes us consider a more cosmic and mystical side of the birth and life of Jesus. It reminds me of the revelation that the Grinch experiences after he has taken all of the presents and decorations and food from the Whos of Who-ville. They wake-up on Christmas morning and begin to sing their song; the Grinch is puzzled until he realizes that Christmas doesn't come from a store, that maybe Christmas means a little bit more. John's Gospel gets us to see that Christmas means much, much more.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."
In the beginning, words reminiscent of Genesis, the beginning of the Bible, the beginning of our Story: The Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word, in Greek “Logos,” which also means Wisdom, The Word is both distinct from God and yet synonymous with God. The Word becomes God Incarnate, enfleshed in Jesus, both Human and Divine. Jesus has that connection with God we all long for (because he is close to the Father's heart). The Son of God, the Word, was with God from the beginning of time and helped create all there is. Jesus is the hinge that connects our creation and our redemption.
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
That light brought rich Wise Men and poor Shepherds to the manger to glorify and praise God. It was the light in the midst of the darkness in the world. It brought grace upon grace. In the darkness, Jesus was not accepted by his own (The Gospel continues). . .but for those who did accept him, he gave power to become Children 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."
The word became flesh and was born for us and another pageant story comes to mind…
It was time for the annual Nativity pageant put on by the children of the church. The manger was located in front of the altar steps. Mary was there in a blue mantel and Joseph in a cotton beard. The wise men were there with a handful of shepherds, and of course, in the midst of them all was the Christ Child, lying on the straw.

The nativity story was read by the pastor with carols sung at the appropriate places, and all went like clockwork until it came time for the arrival of the angels - a "heavenly host" of the children of the congregation dressed in white and scattered throughout the pews with their parents. At the right moment the angels were supposed to come forward and gather around the manger to sing, "Glory to God in the highest" and that is just what they did - except there were so many angels that there was a fair amount of crowding and jockeying for position.

One angel, about nine years old who was smaller than most of the other angels, ended up so far out on the fringes of things that not even by craning her neck and standing on tiptoe could she see what was going on. "Glory to God in the highest" they all sang on cue, and then in the momentary pause that followed, the small girl electrified the entire church by crying out in a voice shrill with irritation and frustration and enormous sadness at having her view blocked, "Let Jesus show!"

The wise pastor decided to end the pageant right there. "Let Jesus show!" the child-angel had cried out, and while the congregation sat in stunned silence, the good father offered a quick final prayer and blessing, and everybody filed out of church with those unforgettable words ringing in their ears. [From Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons by Frederick Buechner.]
Indeed, God let it show on that first Christmas Day when the word became flesh and dwelt among us. But now it is up to us, to let it show, to help bring the meaning and gift of Christmas from here, to wherever we find ourselves. A lovely quote online put it this way:
“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” (Janice Maeditere)
Today, let us open our hearts for Christ is born for us, the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, and that open heart can lead us to do what Christ asks us to do today and always, to love one another. Amen.

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