... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Christmas Eve Year C
Message December 24, 2012

Text: John 1:1-14

This past week I had the opportunity to have had a couple of nights at home without meetings, without homework and without having deadlines to meet. And instead of delving into house work or yard work – both of which need my attention – I chose to watch a couple of movies. The first one was “The Nativity Story” starring Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary, and Oscar Isaac as Joseph. This movie is a spell binding portrayal of the lives of Joseph and Mary as they meet, become engaged and travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census ordered by Rome. The second movie entitled “The True Story of the Nativity” is a supposed in-depth documentary narrated by Roger Moore. The difference between these two movies dealing with the same topic is the difference between night and day, between prose and poetry, or between intellect and emotion. Where the one tried to be profound and logical and missed the mark, the other in its simple narrative succeeded in both the relating of the inexplicable miraculous and the expressing of the emotional.

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of preaching at Christmas is the constraint of human language. How can one express the depths of both the emotional and intellectual impact of what God has accomplished in the birth of Jesus? The greatest of scholars like the documentary movie can fail to elucidate the event whereas the youngest of children seeing a crèche scene with eyes beaming bright and declaring, “Baby Jesus” captures the miraculous entirely. Perhaps that is why poetry and allegory are so important when it comes to interpreting the truly momentous things in our lives. Perhaps that’s why in all four readings we are given poetry or songs of joy. Even Hebrews which begins as prose quickly breaks out into a song of unrestrained joy.

Yet it is John’s gospel which captures the heart. In perhaps the most theological of introductions the first 14 verses of this gospel underscores the whole meaning of Christmas – a new creation, a new beginning, a new Adam – not created but in existence from the vary foundation. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God. And this word became flesh and lived among us.” The very ring of this sends goose bumps up and down my spine. But what is John telling us about Christmas?

First and foremost John wants us to be aware that in Jesus we have and meet God. Through the use of the term “logos” or “word” John links Jesus with God and back to Creation. We know that in the first book of Moses we are told that In the Beginning when God was creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”

Both the concept of wind ‘ruach’ and ‘speech’ imply an act of communication initiated by God and hence God directly. Referring to Jesus as ‘Logos’ or God’s word John directs our understanding of who the infant Jesus is – God personally and in the flesh. God’s embodiment speaks to us, communicates to us and instructs us one-on-one. Christmas is the story of the birth of God’s self-communication to the world. As God spoke in the beginning and each element came into being so God spoke and the word became flesh. “How can this happen?” is like asking how all the variables of the double –stranded DNA came into existence? The miraculous is beyond our comprehension and only by faith can we accept it. As in the movie, “The Santa Clause” the line goes, “seeing is not believing, believing is seeing.” Only in belief can we truly see.

And John wants us to see more! He wants us to understand that there is a connection between the God of Creation of the Word – a connection resulting in a new creation and a new beginning. No longer is God to be comprehended in terms of distant and apart because in Jesus the prophecies of the prophets are fulfilled – God here among us – Emmanuel experienced. To those who see the earthly and the divine as opposite ends of the spectrum, John says, “No!” The divine is part of the earthly as the earthly is part and parcel of the divine – redemption and salvation are not some apocalyptic event whereby the old is destroyed and a replacement instituted. Redemption is a process within the present and meant to guide humanity in a course of self-actualization and betterment.

The problem is, and John openly declares it, that this revelation by God to the world goes unnoticed. Rather the same great cosmic event such as the big bang – God comes in the quietness, in the ordinary, in the birth of a baby! And the movers and shakers of the world, those who ought to know – miss it. The Word comes to a world and to a people who should have been aware of how God communicated. They had been chosen, they had had prophets who had prepared them and they were in a political-social milieu primed to be receptive but they failed to understand who Jesus was or what he was teaching. In fact apart from a handful of the poorest of the poor, God’s self- revelation went unnoticed or unheeded and in fact with time this baby was to be rejected and accused of blasphemy some 33 years later. And as Cousar tells us, John did not and does not let his audience off the hook! Ignorance is no excuse! God has come among us, has taught us, has directed us and we continue to ignore and reject. We can no more come to faith or belief by reasoned thought or scientific discovery than we can come – with all due respect to the scientific world – to know how the universe began.

Faith comes with belief, seeing comes with belief, social change comes with belief – infant life – true life comes with belief. Christmas is about belief – belief that God has accomplished a self-revelation in Jesus, a baby born in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago and in whom we meet God and Creation.

And while the words of my sermon may have but a fleeting impression, my wish for you is that you leave here tonight or should I say early morning, that you continue to experience the joy of believing as you sing whistle or hum our closing hymn which will be Joy to the World.