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    Dec 25, 2018

    Christmas Day

    Passage: John 1:1-14

    Preacher: The Rev. Nathan M. Finnin

    Series: Year B: 2017-2018

    Category: Christmas

    Detail:

    Our reading from the Gospel of John this morning doesn’t have any of the trappings of our usual Christmas stories. There is no Mary. There is no Joseph...There are no inns, and no manger...There are no wisemen, and no animals. No shepherds...no angels, and not a trace of Gold, Frankincense, or Myrrh.

     

    In fact, this morning’s Gospel reading is probably the least Christmasy Christmas story we have. To most people, it might not look like a Christmas story at all. But make no mistake, it is a Christmas story. And the reason I think it’s fair to call this a Christmas story,

    really hinges on one line. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

     

    That, my friends, is the Christmas story. Sure, it may not make for a great pageant. And I imagine it would make for a sad little nativity. But nevertheless, it may be the cleanest, clearest, most succinct description of Christmas, in all of Scripture.

     

    And it is an important part of understanding our Christmas theology. It’s important because it serves as a reminder that Christmas isn’t simply about the nativity. Sure, there is no Christmas without the birth of Jesus. Absolutely. But as you see in this morning’s Gospel, Christmas is about much more than just the birth story. And John seems to get that.

     

    And you know what?  I appreciate that reminder. Because, for many of us, Christmas is an event. As one commentator puts it, we are an event driven people. (1)If you don’t believe me, pull out your phones, and look at your calendars. We organize our lives around events.

    And when one event is over, we move on to the next. So, what I’m about to say is not necessarily just for you, but something I need to hear it too....Christmas is not simply an event.

    Sure, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, But Christmas is not just about the birth of baby Jesus. And John knows this. In fact, I believe this is why John tells his Christmas story in the context of the creation story.

     

    As John reminds us in his opening line this morning, the Christmas story starts “in the beginning.” It starts with creation. It starts in the very first verse, of the very first chapter, in the very first book of the Christian Bible. (2) It starts in the beginning.

     

    And we need to be reminded of this. Because when we understand this, it has the capacity to change everything. You see, Christmas is not simply a holiday, or a memorial, or an anniversary, or a birthday. No. Christmas is a reality. Christmas is a lived experience. Christmas is an ongoing event that permeates our lives. Christmas is the eternal event that takes “God” from being this distant deity watching over us from “out there,” and immerses us in the presence of a God who is with and in and around us. Right now. Right here. Today.

     

    That’s what we talk about when we talk about the incarnation. And it’s about way more than one day. We talk about God entering our world, in the person of Jesus Christ, so that we may never have to wonder about our identity so that we may never have to wonder who we are, or whose we are. And that’s a gift.

     

    If you look for a moment, at the portion of today’s reading I skipped over on the way to the Christmas part, you’ll see John using this language of light. We are told that what has come into being through Christmas creation is life, and that that life is the light to all people. And then, in one of my favorite lines of scripture, we are told that that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. And I am here this morning to tell you that you are part of that light. John says,

    “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”

    As a seminary classmate of mine points out, “this means that you were part of a process

    much greater than your parents creating a biological exchange. Jesus Christ himself, the great and eternal Word, was the vehicle of your creation, was the medium and the messenger that spoke a unique word into the universe that never was before and never will be again. That’s you.” (3)

     

    That is you. That is the answer to the question “who are you.” Being a beloved child created in the image of God, and bearing the light of Christ is what defines you in the eyes of God.

     

    David Lose captures this well when he says that “to fully appreciate the significance of what John is saying, we need to distinguish between things that describe us and those that define us. All too often, we allow certain elements of our life to dominate and define us.” Things like our family of origin, our jobs, our successes and failures, our financial and social status. Lose says that “these things matter and are what he would call descriptively true. But all too often

    we allow them not just to describe parts of our life but to define us completely.

     

    In these verses, John invites us to hold all of the ordinary things that describe us as important but insufficient, as valuable but partial as meaningful but not definitive. What is definitive...

    and therefore more important than all the good or bad things we carry with us, is that God has called us as his own children.  God has created us as individuals who hold infinite worth in his eyes. God has created us as individuals who deserve love and respect.

    And God has created us to be used by God to care for God’s beloved world.”(4)

     

    That is the heart of John’s unsentimental Christmas message. That God is entrusting himself to humanity, in the word made flesh. God sees us as an opportunity to reveal himself.

    That’s Christmas. And I can’t help but believe that we are part of the gift of the ongoing Christmas reality. That we have literally been given the Christ light, that we symbolically light at our baptisms. And if that’s true, (it is) that has profound implications for those of us who call ourselves Christians. Primarily, it means we have work to do. Christmas work.

     

    If we want to change the story of our culture, the story of fear, and scarcity, and violence, we need to change the stories we tell ourselves, and others. It means we have to changes how we see ourselves and one another. It means we’re invited to change the way we live, our actions, and our words. It means we have to be willing to shine the light of Christ in the world. And it means that Christmas cannot be limited to an event. Christmas is a life to be lived, and a way of being. Amen