Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sermon: 1st Sunday after Christmas

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
When did it happen?
"It was a long time ago."
Where did it happen?
"It was far away."
No, tell. Where did it happen?
"In my heart."
What is your heart doing now?
"Remembering. Remembering!"
(poem by Mary Oliver from "Felicity")
Indeed, our hearts continue our Christmas remembering today. On Christmas, we heard the nativity story according to Luke, with shepherds and angels and a manger. Next Sunday, we will hear the ending of the nativity according to Matthew, of magi traveling home, with Herod forcing the Holy Family to flee to Egypt.

But today, we remember and hear from the Gospel of John.
"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, including us.

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 magi and poor shepherds, both gentile & Jew, to glorify and praise God. It was the light in the midst of the darkness in the world. It brought grace upon grace. and the darkness did not overcome him. In the darkness, Jesus was not accepted by many (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."
God let it show on that first Christmas Day when the word became flesh and dwelt among us. But now it is given to us, to let it show, to help bring the meaning and gift of Christmas from here, to wherever we find ourselves.

It reminds me of something Rabbi Laurence Kushner once wrote:
A rabbi prayed to the great prophet Elijah.
"Where," the rabbi asked, "shall I find the Messiah?"
"At the gate of the city," the prophet replied.
"But how shall I recognize him?"
"He sits among the lepers."
"Among the lepers!" the rabbi cried. "What is he doing there?"
"He changes their bandages," Elijah replied. "He changes their bandages, one by one."
That is the true mystery of Christmas: that God became one of us, lived among us and came to birth through our moments of joy, grief, despair, anger and fear. Here, in the Christ Child, the love of God takes on a human face, the Word of God becomes "enfleshed" in the child Jesus, enabling us to transform our hearts in that love.

Our God knows that our lives are filled with disappointment, pain and despair; he has lived through the storms and crises we all live through; he has given us hope in our world by promising us life in his world. The challenge of Christmas is to continue to make that love incarnate in our own lives, in the lives of those we love, and all those we encounter.

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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