CHRISTMAS DAY 2016 John 1:1-14
I have to tell you some wonderful news. Our gorgeous grandson arrived yesterday evening – along with his parents and our other son, from Melbourne. I’ve spent days, weeks even, preparing for their arrival and visit. Tidying the house, cleaning, dusting, cooking, illicit buying of toys and pouring over baby clothes and the joy of Christmas has become like a light, shining all around my life and those of my family. The preparations and anticipation has been wonderful.
So as I sat down to prepare my sermon for this morning, this wonderful, awesome piece of writing that opens John’s Gospel, chapter 1, verses 1 to 14 and which is poetry to my heart and food for my soul, stepped me into the joy and blessings of Christmas. It highlights the reason we all gather together each year, after we have moved into Advent at the start of the month and as we reflect and prepare for the arrival of the Son of God; the arrival of a new baby.
And for those of you who attended Christmas carols and Christmas Eve services, you will have been filled with the stories of Jesus’ birth, the announcement to Mary by the angel, the news being told to the shepherds, Herod’s reaction to the visit by the Magi, the fleeing of the small family as refugees to a different country and living as strangers until it was safe to go back home, all familiar parts of the Christmas story. So the words of John this morning give us something different to think about.
All the best stories and books start with something like, ‘once upon a time’ or ‘in the beginning’ which is how John starts. ‘In the beginning’ and with those words he takes us straight back to the opening verse of the bible and the book of Genesis, part of the Hebrew scriptures, to the very start of the story of God as humans know it.
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 naming of Jesus as ‘the Word’ invites us to start to think about God as the Creator, the Word and the Holy Spirit, who was there in the beginning before all things. Before the universe created and came into existence, before our cosmos and planet came alive and humans were created and evolved. Just think about that for a moment! God was there before all things!
Then we are told:
All things came into being through God, and without God not one thing came into being. What has come into being in God was life and the life was the light of all people.
It is an extraordinary piece of writing to think about. Nothing has come into the world that was not made by God. God is our Creator. God made the universe, the cosmos, our world. God made all that is in it, and God is continuing to make all that is in it.
When I think about that, I think about how much God has loved us and still loves us and will continue to love us and the world God has made and is making today. God is making it because God loves it. God was there for all those who have gone before us today. God has made my children and my grandchild. God has made each and every one of us and those we love and cherish. I look at my grandson and I reflect on the fact that God knew me before I was knit in my mother’s womb, God knows the length of my days, God knows me as well as God knows my grandson. God knows me better than I know myself.
All things came into being through God. What has come into being in God is life…
Then John goes onto write:
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
And I look around our world and our communities today. And this statement is so powerful. I know that while I am celebrating Christmas, there are those among us who are not, who are struggling with grief over those not present, unable to come and share the celebrations, either through death or illness or distance and commitments. There are also arguments we still want to have, and how we still want to make our point and are not yet ready to let go. Hurts and punishments we still inflict on others. There are old hurts and past wounds done to us we cannot yet forgive or forget. Our preparations in Advent have not always been successful in providing healing and repentance.
And more broadly, hasn’t 2016 been a difficult year? There have been wars and terrible treatment of fellow human beings around the world which has been appalling, as it has in Australia.
And I read the ancient prophets who basically said to their people: ‘if this is how you behave, is it small wonder that the world is behaving like this in response.’
And I read these verses written by John as a reminder to all of us who wonder sometimes when life becomes hard, if it wouldn’t be easier to give up:
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
It is an extraordinary statement of faith and hope. I go on to read that God’s gave us God’s only son:
He was in the world and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
And when I think about the griefs and wounds of this world and its continuing violence, this has been much of our story for the last two thousand years. We reject what we don’t want to hear. We despise and fear that which we see as different, or critical, or threatening our way of life and our mostly comfortable standards of living which many of us have; and we choose to forget what happened in the beginning. We forget how much God loves us.
But this is a powerful statement of faith and hope that John reminds us. John the Baptist came to testify to God and to Jesus, “to testify to the light, so that we might believe through him.” John describes Jesus as the “true Light, which enlightens everyone”, who was now coming into the world.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
So as we think about Christmas, perhaps attended last night’s service to welcome the new child, and the preparations over the last five weeks of Advent, we have each of us been thinking about new beginnings, about preparing and making ourselves ready to celebrate the arrival of the baby Jesus; as I have been doing for my family.
My joy is profound, for my family and for what Jesus means to you and I! I am reminded at this time of year, of God’s promises to us, of love, peace and justice. God loves us so much, God gave us God’s only Son, to live among us, to be with us, to share our humanity, to go before us. God loved us so much, Jesus was prepared to die for us, rather than betray that fundamental fact, whether we know it or understand it or accept it.
So here we are at Christmas. We are gathered, sisters and brothers, with friends, families, neighbours, strangers, sharing the joy and peace of this very special time of year. I wish you the deepest joy and peace that Jesus brings us with his presence in our lives, such profound and unfathomable blessings that give us hope and faith whoever and wherever we are and whatever our circumstances, simply because God made us, loves us, lives with us, dies with us, always knowing us and always changing our lives.
The Lord be with you.