Gospel: John 1:1-18
1st Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14
2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
Where Matthew and Luke begin with the nativity or the geneology of Jesus, John is more poetic. He is linking the Christmas story with the story of all time. Yes, Jesus enters our human story at his birth, but, according to John, Jesus always has been and always will be.
“In the beginning….” This part always gets my imagination whirling. The beginning of what? Did God have a beginning? Is this just how we refer to this time we can’t describe? Is this just before everything else existed—maybe the beginning of the universe? I always imagine this great darkness and then a little pinprick of light, an explosion of light and heat, the whirling of planets and heavenly bodies. In this beginning, this indescribable time, God had a word, but no one who could hear it. God had a need to converse and communicate. God spoke this word and the universe began to take shape. All things came into being through this word that God spoke. This word is Jesus Christ, or the Christ Spirit, which brought life into this universe, this world.
What a great opening to a book! This paragraph links Christ’s story to the story of all time. It creates a proper setting to tell us who the hero of our story will be—where he came from and where he is going. God is setting this world in motion through Jesus and the purpose of God’s creating action is to bring life and light.
Notice that in the very beginning all things are in unity, created by God for good. Then, very early on the story mentions darkness. This always gets my imagination running, too. What is this darkness? Is it separation? Is it greed? Jesus has come as the light into a world that doesn’t get him or want him, a world of darkness. Certainly some of this darkness is death. The light of the world is coming and we know that the powers of this world will try to put the Christ Spirit to death and it seems that they succeeded, except we have this promise that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Just because the light is coming, doesn’t mean our lives will be painless and we won’t encounter suffering. We know we will and do. We sometimes wonder if this darkness is an absence of God, but this reading shows that where there is darkness, the light will shine. And be assured from the very beginning, that the light will prevail and that God isn’t entering our story in this way as a last-minute rescue attempt, but as part of a larger plan that has been in the works from the very beginning. The story of Jesus begins at the very beginning of everything, continues as God shines light on people throughout history, builds as God is born into this world as a human to experience the light and darkness that we all experience, is not snuffed out when Jesus is killed, but prevails, bringing light to all people.
And what is this light? Is it that Gospel light in the old Spiritual that we’re gonna let shine? Is it telling the good news? Is it when good things happen? The light is revealing the truth that the presence of God is all around us in everything from the very beginning. It shows the reality that we have trouble seeing and that is God everywhere in everything for all time.
This morning we are still celebrating Christmas. We’ve got a newborn baby here. We’ve been singing about how well he sleeps and how Mary has been pondering and getting a little weepy as the little drummer boy plays his best for the Christ Child. But we all know babies don’t stay little. It isn’t long and they are smiling and learning to grab things, walking and climbing and the next thing you know they’ve grown up. The same is true of little baby Jesus. He didn’t come to stay a baby, but to grow up and take his light to the world, let people know of God’s love and grace.
Jesus as a baby has some light to shine, to show us how to be vulnerable and helpless. He has light to shine on what it means to learn and grow throughout your life and how to walk in accompaniment with others, humbling yourselves to learn from others. But by next week, the scriptures will be showing us Jesus all grown up, starting his public ministry. Soon he will be challenging us and shining a light on our lives. This light will show us quite plainly where we’ve gotten off track, the barriers we’ve put in front of other people, the games we play for power and influence. But it will also illuminate the path into the arms of God, remind us of God’s values, and show us who we really are as Children of God.
“The word became flesh and lived among us.” Those words spoken at the beginning of the universe still reverberate, only we are here to listen and receive those words. God is communicating to us through the life of Jesus. What once were words are actions in a human being, actions that we can accept or reject, listen to or ignore. Jesus is the living word, not letters in a book, but hands and feet walking this earth showing what God’s word looks like in action.
That light is shining in the darkness and illuminating who God is. God is involved in everything here on earth and in our universe. God is in every plant and animal and human, in every river and mountain, in every ray of light. God has always been involved, is now, and always will be. The difficulty is that God is so omnipresent, that we lose our ability to see it. The light has come to show us that we’re not alone, to show us that God is loving and generous, and to show us who we are.
That light is shining in the darkness illuminating the truth about who we are. Yes it shows our shortcomings, but it also reveals how God sees us. It reveals that we are all one under the Creator. It illuminates how richly God has blessed us with every good gift. It illuminates that we will be gathered to God again along with all things in heaven and on earth in the fullness of time. And it illuminates that we have an inheritance, which gives us a responsibility to use that inheritance to further the light of Christ in t he world. We are also called to be witnesses like John the Baptist. We haven’t just read words in a book, but we have personally experienced the saving power of Christ in our lives. We are not the light, but we reflect the light to those we meet so that all may know the love, welcome, and justice of God.
Down in the gutter by Immaculate Conception school,
i discover a tan, two-inch, plastic figurine of Jesus. “Jesus-of-the-car-tire,” i call him:
His pedestal and fancy mantle, chipped and flecked with grime,
clearly aren’t in the pristine condition some Christian toymaker intended.
His right forefinger still points to heaven, though, and his left hand rests just below
a brightly shining sacred heart. Don’t think he earned either gesture until he
dropped from some pupil’s pocket, got stepped on, ignored, and eventually
run over. Yet that child tearfully searched
hours for him, combed the whole route
from home to school: not because the Lord
looks regal in His heavenly robes and sovereign stance
but because he’s light and small enough
to nestle in someone’s pocket.
-- Patricia Campbell Carlson