Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Second Sunday in Christmas - What child is this?

Readings for the 2nd Sunday in Christmas:  Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalms 147:12-20, Epheisans 1:3-14, John 1:1-18

It’s the day after New Year’s.  We’ve finished the marathon that was the holiday season.  We’ve heard of angelic visitations, a difficult journey, a baby in manger, angels and shepherds, about wise men and a star. 
Christmas is over and it’s time to pack away the decorations.  Maybe some of you have already taken down your tree.  We’re singing the carols today once last time before they too go into storage until next year.  Christmas is over and it’s time to put the manger back in a box and store it on the shelf.
Christmas is over and it’s time to get back on with our regular lives, right? 
We’re all done with the traditional Christmas readings and we’re moving on.  Take today’s gospel reading from John.  It’s not really a Christmas-y reading, is it? After all, there is no baby, no manger, none of the trappings we associate with the Christmas story.  Or is there? 
If you look at the four gospels, the Christmas story is told (or not) in different ways.  Mark is so intent on proclaiming the Passion that he finds it unnecessary to tell of the Nativity. Mark tells us flat out in verse one, “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” No need for birth stories here.
Luke has a wonderful telling of the Nativity, full of details about the birth.  You could say that he tells the story of Mary – her visit with the angel, sharing the joys and pains of pregnancy with Elizabeth, the arduous travel on a donkey and the frantic search for lodging while in the early stage of labor, giving birth in a stable, the shepherds and angels, presenting the baby at the temple and Simon and Anna’s prophecies.    Luke is telling the story from a mother’s point of view – recounting the smallest detail, cherishing the experience and pondering its meaning.
Matthew’s story is full of tension, intrigue and action.  His is the story of Joseph.  Matthew outlines Joseph’s lineage – the family line is important!  Matthew also tells of angelic visits – visits full of warnings and calls to action: telling Joseph to go ahead and take Mary as his wife, warning the wise men in a dream not to return to Herod, warning Joseph to flee with his small family to Egypt and advising when and where to return to Nazareth, not Bethlehem.  This is the story of the man who bears the responsibility of protecting and providing for Mary and her infant son. 

But there is another main actor whose story needs to be told and John tells it exquisitely.  John tells us why there were angelic visitations, why the wise men traveled from afar, why the shepherds marveled and the angels sang, why Herod feared enough to order the deaths of Bethlehem’s infants.  John tells us just who this baby is and why his birth changed everything.
John tells the story of God.
In the beginning – John starts not with the announcement of a pregnancy and the birth of a baby, but way back before everything was born. 
In the beginning was the Word.
The Word was with God and the Word was God.
In the beginning, God spoke and all things were created.  And it was good.  And God loved the world and all the things created by and through and in the Word - especially those pesky, troublesome human beings. 
God loved the world and never left it alone.  But the world could not see God and those pesky human beings often thought God had left them all alone in the world.  So God did something drastic, something amazing, something that caused the angels to tremble and hold their breaths, and then to praise God and sing.
The Word became flesh and blood,
      and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14a, the Message)   
This is why the angels sang, Mary pondered, the shepherds marveled, the wise men followed the star.  This is why Herod and all the powers of greed, destruction and death shook with fear.
The Word became a baby, and lived among us.  He grew, with a grace and a compassion that amazed us.  We had never seen anyone like him before.
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 1:14b, the Message)
Suddenly, a world in darkness was flooded with new light.  The Word lived and walked and worked right in our midst.  God was with us.  
 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.
(John 1:17, the Message)
Suddenly, we could see God.  Jesus taught us that when we look at him and his actions, we see God.  Jesus walked the paths of Galilee, loving the outcast and the sinner, healing the blind and deaf, the sick and the lame, teaching anyone who would listen that God is and has always been love, and mercy, and grace. 
God became flesh and lived with us.  God wrapped in human flesh walked this earth, cried our tears and shared our sorrows and joys.  God wrapped in human flesh suffered humiliation, shame, and death.  God wrapped in human flesh rose again, ascended to heaven and lives today.
 And that’s why, although we pack away our trees and decorations and put aside the carols for another year, Christmas is never really over.
The Word became flesh and lives – LIVES - among us.  God is with us.  God loves the world so much, that God sent the Word, God’s son Jesus, to us.  God loves us, already loved us so much that before we were born, The Word became flesh and lived and walked and died among us (Romans 5:8).
God is with us.  The Word became a baby and entered our world and shared our life.  The Word taught us to see the Light, to see who God is.  The Word taught us how to live as children of the Light, as children of God.
You can’t pack that away.
For us, Christmas is not a season, not a time to observe and trappings to be taken out and then packed away again. It’s not a brief nod to peace and goodwill to all, and then back to our regular lives.
Christmas is our regular lives.
For us Christmas is only the beginning, only one part of the story. For us, who are called and claimed children of God, Christmas is both gift and call.  It is the dawn of amazing grace and the gift of Jesus-God-with-us.  We have seen God.  Jesus shines God’s light on us and through us.  Like John we are called, sent by God, to testify to that light. To testify to a world still caught up in darkness, a world that does not yet see the Light.

May the Light that Shines in the Darkness fill your life with light.  May the Word Made Flesh speak peace to your heart all the year through.  May the baby who is Immanuel, God-with-us, reveal God to you in surprising new ways in the year to come.  Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment