Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Isaiah 52: 7 – 10
7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Hebrews 1: 1 – 4
God Has Spoken by His Son
1Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
John 1: 1 – 14
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 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.
It’s good to be gathered together as the Community of Christ here on Christmas Day.
We are witnesses to a strange conception. Most children are conceived in the normal manner but here we are, 2000 years after the event, celebrating the arrival of a baby who, St John tells us, is “the word made flesh”.
Mind you, God’s words are pretty powerful, so that should not surprise us. We read in the Genesis story that God spoke the universe into being. God’s words have a creative power that is astounding.
There is something special about being exposed to the words of God. I can remember as a child that Christmas Day was especially pleasant when we went to church. The day seemed to go well.
Occasionally we would celebrate Christmas with my paternal grandparents. My grandfather’s mother was the daughter of an Anglo-Irish clergyman and something about her faith put my grandfather off church altogether. At least that was the story.
My grandparents were lovely people but we didn’t go to church when we had Christmas with them, and there always seemed to be something vaguely unsatisfying about the experience of Christmas Day as a result.
So whatever reason you have for being here today, you have made a good choice. The reason you are here, however, is less important than what you do about Christmas Day in your daily lives.
God is pleased that we are here today to celebrate the birth of his Son, but it is the ongoing part that his Son plays in our lives that is important to God.
So back to “the word made flesh.”
There are three results of the Word becoming flesh.
- We are adopted as God’s children
12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, John says in verse twelve.
We’re all God’s children in a general sense i.e. in the sense that we are all created by God. But we are not automatically God’s children in the specific sense. Verse twelve implies that in receiving God, and in believing in his name we are given the power to become God’s children.
This is probably the single most important reason for Christmas – it introduces us to the idea that God can be born into us and grow into something much bigger. It involves a receiving, a believing and a becoming.
- We receive God’s life
4in him was life, says verse four.
The second result we experience because God came to earth is life. Verse 4 says, “In Him was life.” In this child was life. Here was the Creator of the universe who brought life to the earth, come in the flesh to bring life back to us. In fact John repeats over and over in his gospel that Jesus has come so that we might have life. He concluded his gospel by writing that the very purpose of his writing his gospel account is so that we might have life:
But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life. (John 20: 31)
God wants us to have both eternal life and what John calls abundant life:
For God so love the World that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but everlasting life. (John 3: 16)
And also: Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10: 10)
In receiving and believing in the Christ of Christmas we have an assurance of life after death and of a full life here on earth, a life that is redolent with significance, meaning and the character of God. And significantly, it is a life that we share with others.
- We receive light in our darkness
4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 4 – 5)
9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1: 9)
If there is one thing that characterises our world it is that it is stumbling about in darkness. Terrorism, warfare, human trafficking, unjust economic structures, greed, ignorance, starvation, ongoing disease in spite of advances in medical science, hatred, environmental degradation. In a macro sense we are in trouble.
In a personal sense we are in darkness too. The most advanced cultures spend the most on combating unhappiness, mainly through prescription drugs. I could go on. The number of First World people who are miserable is astounding!
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. There are patches of optimism, but they cannot deal with the real issue which is a dislocation from God – the source of all life and good.
Receiving and believing in the Christ of Christmas on an ongoing basis – where we allow him to affect every moment of every day – brings the light of Christ into our lives.
So I think you have made a good decision in coming to church today. A birth is good. It is essential to start something!
But remember it is about becoming. We all need to grow in Christ. That is a process, and the process needs a context. According to St Paul, that context is what he calls the Body of Christ – the church – in other words regular involvement with fellow believers.
It is here that we are exposed to the transforming word of God, that same word that spoke the creative processes into action and has become flesh in the person of Jesus. It is here that we grow in loving responsibility and relationship with other people who are in the same process.
Remember that. Don’t make out of Christ a disembodied head. He needs hands and feet. He needs you. And, as someone once startlingly said, he has no plan B!
God bless you and a very merry Christmas to you!