First Sunday after Christmas
December 28, 2014
We know the story from Luke we read Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: The story about Caesar and shepherds and angels and a man and a woman and a baby in a manger who was son of Mary and Son of God.
But this is not the whole story. It is rather like the detail of a much larger painting. In a museum you can see the whole painting, but in the museum shop you can purchase a painting of just a detail of the larger picture.
Today in John’s gospel we step back a ways and look at the whole canvas, at the whole story, at the macro story. It includes the detail and it gives the detail its deepest meaning. it gives us the Big Picture that surrounds the story of Jesus we find in the synoptic gospels.
So today we’ve read the first 18 verses of John, called the Prologue of John. Obviously we don’t have time to go through it all, but we can look at four central points.
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
The first thing to notice here is the image of God we are being shown: this God is not alone. Most people today, even churchgoing people, have as their default setting that God is alone. Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner is quite right when he said: “We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.”
And what’s worse is because our default setting is that God is alone, sitting in splendid isolation, then we see that being in intimate relationship is not intrinsic to the nature of God.
During the enlightenment in the 18th century it was decided that all this talk of a Tri-unity God was scientifically absurd and so the Trinity was replaced with what is called Deism. Deism believes in a god that is alone and that created the universe, like a watchmaker makes a watch. He then winds the world up and turns it loose to run on its own. This god then sits alone far away in heaven watching and not interfering, but this god is moral and one day will judge us according to how we measure up to his standard of morality and holiness. (And yes this god was conceived of as a he!)
This, however, is not what is being described in John:
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and this Word was God.”
The Father and the Word are two yet one God. Later John will introduce the Spirit as the Third who is also God. Now certainly John does not work out the details of the doctrine of the Trinity which would finally emerge three centuries later, but it is clear that John’s God is not alone but is in relationship from eternity. The deepest truth about this God is relationship, not morality.
Second, this relationship is creative. John writes: All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
So through the Word that is also God comes everything that is—whales, snails, and fingernails. Everything….Everyone….Which means everything and everyone have a living connection with God through the Word. Science rightly tells us that we are stardust. John’s Gospel tells us we are even more than that. Of course this is not different from what we should have learned in Genesis 1: God created them in God’s image, male and female God created them. And in Colossians IN Christ all things hold together.”
III. “And the Word that is God and through whom all things are in being, this Word became flesh and lived among us…”
The miracle of the incarnation is spoken clearly by John. Notice it doesn’t say “the Word entered into flesh” which would imply a kind of sharing of space, like one of those games you play at camp where two people try to get into the same shirt.
No, the Word became flesh. It doesn’t stop being the Word yet it is also flesh.
And what is flesh? Flesh here means more than one human being, or a man. It means the Word took on all Humanity and also became a man, one human being. All humanity is included in this becoming flesh, which means the Word also took on your flesh and my flesh.
But how can that be—we are sinners, who fall short of the glory of God. We know the things we have done and the things we have left undone.
The Word entered this reality?
Paul puts it plainly in Romand 8:3: 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin,[a] he condemned sin in the flesh”
God in Jesus has entered the darkness of all humanity and is in your darkness and mine. Father, Son, and Spirit is not overwhelmed by your darkness—your darkness cannot overcome God’s light.
From Jesus’ fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Because of what Father, Son, and Spirit have done, by sending the Son to take on our sinful flesh, we have all received grace upon grace.
Now let me ask you: do you see anything in that about having to earn our way into God’s presence? Do you see anything about having to become worthy to receive this from God? Do you see anything that says your sin, your unworthiness, will be able to stop the creator and redeemer God from having welcomed you into the presence of God as children of God?
From before time, Father, Son, and Spirit conspired to send the Son into sinful flesh to go into the far country to find the lost sheep and to bring us back into the fellowship of the Blessed Trinity. That’s where we are now. (see C. Baxter Krueger’s books and teachings at p http://www.perichoresis.org/
So John 14:20 at the Last Supper Jesus tells the disciples:
20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
The Big Picture—the whole canvas tells us of the action of God, Father, Son, and Spirit to wrap their arms of fellowship around us so we might share in conscious fellowship with the Triune God. God already has you—the gospel calls us to believe it is true. To believe this vision and not the lonely watchmaker, who is keeping a list and checking it twice that you have to appease.
This is who everyone human being is. This has already happened in Jesus Christ. We don’t invite Jesus to come into our lives because Jesus has already received us into his life of fellowship with the Father.
If we don’t believe this, but believe our own darkness is the last word, it doesn’t change what has happened in Jesus Christ. It only changes how we see things—and of course “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we think we are.” (Richard Rohr)
So we are here today to see how things are in truth and to give up our struggle to perform and to prove that we are worthy to have a relationship with god sitting alone in austere isolation.
We, who know the good news, relax into the arms of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, that has adopted us in Jesus Christ from before the foundation of the world.
That’s what I did as a college student when I’d come home for Christmas: I’d sleep, and eat, and laugh, and play with my friends, safe in our parents’ house.
What if you really are already home in communion with Father, Son, and Spirit?
What if every person we meet is also already home with Father, Son, and Spirit even if they don’t know it?
In our default mindset we can’t help but imagine that we have miles to go before we sleep in the Father’s house.
In the vision of John’s Gospel we are already there.
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Ephesians 1:3-14 (NRSV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ[a] before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,[b] having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this[c] is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
Colossians 1:11-23 (NRSV)
11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled[a]you[b] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[c]
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in[d] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[e] him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled[f] in his fleshly body[g] through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NRSV)
14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[a] even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[b] we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,[c] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.