The Life and Light in Jesus
The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
Christmass I +C + 2015
After the High Mass of Christmass Eve, this day seems anti-climatic in some ways. The Tradition calls it Low Sunday. But there are no low Sundays with Jesus. This is also the Third day of Christmass, but sorry, no French hens here in the pulpit. From the star, the heavenly hosts and the babe in the manger, John takes us back to the "beginning". Where have we heard that before? We heard it in the first words of our Bibles: "in the beginning God…". In the birth of this infant in an almost unknown town, to an unknown Jewish virgin, comes a wonder spoken of in the hymn: the hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.
I want to suggest to you that our faith, the faith of God in Christ, is not some random fatalistic accident, but is God's story..or as the secular historians accidentally call it: "His-story". It is the story of God's unending love for a rebellious creation. Why? The story is to all world religions, too good to be true. But they don't know the Name, the Name above all names: Jesus. Of whom the Hymn writer in "Crown him with many Crowns" wrote: "Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above, Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love."
"The wondrous Name of Love" Love: the first of all basic human needs. "God so loved the world." Even the Jews were questioning of God's Love. The Moslems do not seem to know quite how to ascribe "love" to God. To teach us all, like Hallmark, God cared enough to send the very best, "Jesus". A heinous blasphemy this is to some. The gospel proclaims that God so loved us that in Jesus, he became one of us! The Jews proclaim that Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." Islam declares, "God has no son". Christianity with unbridled joy declares: "God so loved that he sent his one and only Son."
What is it about love? There are innumerable songs, poems, movies and plays written about it. In the throes of love's passion we behave ever more and more strangely, and still we pursue it. God pursued it in Jesus. We are indeed made in God's character, God's image, God's likeness. The likeness of perfect love. With no disrespect to Frosty, Rudolph, the Christmas elves from the North Pole, or innumerable Christmas trees, Christmas is the feast of God's Love for you and me.
In the Collect for this first Sunday after Christmas we pray: Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, en-kindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives." Christmas is about the transformation of the human heart....
Christmas is about light coming out of darkness. It is about God entering into the dark places of this creation and revealing himself as well as revealing the darkness for what it is a fearful facade.
Todays gospel is very different from the story enacted by our children here on Christmass Eve. It is not so much a story about what God has done in Jesus Christ, but rather who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ. The beginning of the gospel uses the word Logos translated Word. But this Word is the Eternal Word. It is Gods rationality and purpose in God=s creative intention. Let me be as serious as a heart attack. God loves you, just as you are and not as you ever could or should be. Those are words you can bank on…forever.
This second reiteration of those profound moving words of Genesis chapter one and verse one. In the beginning, or perhaps as in the renewed Testament, is this, in the renewed beginning was the Word. A In the beginning@ John writes, was the Word. Notice that John is making a bold declaration that the person about whom he is writing existed before time, creation and this world. We are taken out of our own very human experience somewhat as in the Star Wars trilogy and the scene opens with the words: Along ago in a galaxy, far, far away....@ But note this, it is speaking of the One who would become Jesus, for the gospel is exactly about the person of Jesus who united earth to heaven and heaven to earth as the Christmas blessing states..
Jesus was the liberator. Darkness represents ignorance. Those who are without knowledge are in a bondage all of their own. They cannot see. Indeed, rulers over the centuries have known that to keep a people under control, it is a great tool to keep them illiterate! But God, the Word, became flesh, humanBGod enfleshed. The Athanasian Creed notes: AOne, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;@ and as we say in the Nicene Creed each week: A
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He informed us about who God isBhow God thinksBhow God reasonsBGod=s plan for the human race. God did not lower himself to us, he raised us to Himself. Where John says that God the Word lived among us, the actual words mean God the Word tabernacled among us. A tabernacle is a movable place of worship. And indeed in God the Word, Jesus Christ, he tabernacles among us still. But there are a couple of darker points in these readingsBthey say: A The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 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.@
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, mystic and writer said this: A"Into this world, this demented inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world." Yet it is only our invitation that Christ comes to dwell in our hearts. So the God of grace, power and glory comes gently to disarm us. Herod thought to prevent his growing to be a man thinking that Jesus would conquer him with arms and might. But even as a man, Jesus never raised a hand to strike a soul. His weapon is love. His instrument, the body we gave him through the blessed Virgin Mary.
Before, the people of God obeyed the Law that they might feel good about themselves and avoid God=s wrath, but they misunderstood. The Law was a defining element of God=s people. It taught them how to live rightly related to God and other human beings. It also taught them the limits of their abilities to keep it! So they begin to redefine it in terms that would enable them to keep rules and regulations so that they could call them selves right law keepers. Righteous.
But Christians don=t do good works to show God and the world that they are different, rather they do good works because they are different and they love God and the people for whom Jesus died. For this reason we could look to the very metaphorical language of Isaiah in the first reading, as an image of the child adopted and made new by Almighty God. A I will greatly rejoice in the LORD my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.@ These readings meld together. They tell us what God is likeBwhat he has done for us and why we should indeed rejoice! praise God=s Name! And why every year we remember the most humble and unthreatening way that it all began. As the hymn writer wrote: ALet every heart prepare a room where such a mighty guest may come. A We are lighthouses of the one true light and we tabernacle wherever we go. Let your light shine and do not let the darkness overcome you. Amen