Theme: Our gift of the Word of God
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, this day we celebrate the birthday of your son, who was co-creator of all that we know; may we receive this good news as the true gift of Christmas, through him who came among us, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Jim Taylor writes about his experience of Haiti.
“Earlier this week I sat at my computer wondering what I could write about Christmas that might be new and insightful. Far too often, the Christmas message feels just like dusting off ornaments exhumed once a year.
“In desperation, I thumbed through some Decembers of the journal I’ve kept -- more or less regularly -- since 1964. Late in 1980, I made my final trip to Haiti. For part of my time there, I stayed at the St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children, located in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
“The center had been founded 35 years before by Sr. Joan Margaret of the Episcopal Order of the Sisters of Saint Margaret, based in Boston, Massachusetts. Sr. Joan was still running it in 1980, although it has since become a mission of the Haitian church.
“At the time of its opening, disabled children were often considered hopeless and were often left to die. Sister Joan found such a child, an abandoned young blind girl. She took the girl to her convent.
“No school in a city of half a million would accept a blind girl. So Sr. Joan, whose bishop had simply told her to “go down there and start something,” started teaching the girl herself, sitting under a tree. Soon they were joined by a deaf boy. From those beginnings, the school grew to over 450 students.
“Before last January’s earthquake, the school had 16 classrooms, a music area, a medical clinic and operating room, an eye clinic, a dental clinic, a brace shop, cooking and dining facilities, dormitories for both boys and girls, and guest rooms for volunteers and visitors like me. (Maybe you saw pictures of it on TV after the earthquake.)
“Here’s what (Jim) wrote in 1980: ‘The interesting thing was the way the boys and girls were trained to help each other. The prosthetic shop making arms and legs for amputees is staffed by deaf people. The amputees lead the blind around, when they need to go anywhere. The original blind girl taught by Sr. Joan is now the matron, supervising the laundry and the making of beds.
‘In a music period, a blind boy couldn’t see the music for his violin. So a boy without legs played it for him on a cassette recorder. He played about 30 seconds of a classical concerto. Then he paused the tape while the blind violinist repeated the notes by memory. Sometimes he’d rewind, to repeat the selection for more practice; sometimes he played on so the violinist could learn the next phrases...’
“St. Vincent’s was pretty much ruined by January’s earthquake. Anything that wasn’t destroyed was looted, including all the dental and medical equipment -- even the kitchen sink.
“But I have no doubt that the deaf are still helping the lame walk, the lame are still helping the blind see, and the blind are still playing concertos. What did Jesus say would mark the Messiah’s presence? ‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk... the deaf hear, the poor receive good news...’
“It’s not precisely the same. But close enough. (During this time of Christmas and a season of gift giving), it’s hard to imagine greater gifts than the ones those so-called handicapped children were giving each other.”
In spite of all the gifts we opened this morning or will do so later this day, the greatest gift is the light that entered the world and is the light of the world. John reminds us that Jesus’ incarnation is more than a birth of a baby so long ago. Jesus really entered the world at the very beginning.
Last night we wondered at the divine birth of a child. Today we ponder the theological meaning of that birth. For that is what John is about. John makes us scratch our heads. We stumble over words trying to explain the incarnation. John didn’t even try. John, instead, used poetry. Poetry can explain that for which we cannot explain.
In the beginning was the Word. John purposely begins his gospel to sound just like the beginning of Genesis. When time began, there was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. When time began, the Word existed as God.
The Greek word we translate as “word” is logos. Logos has many meanings depending on which philosophical school one is member of. Logos can mean: an instrument of creation, a means of self-expression, divine wisdom, or the pre-existent Christ. John is weaving together Greek philosophy and Jewish wisdom writings. John assumes the reader knows what this Greek word means and what theological implications that word carries. It is a heavy word. Logos is word with a capital “W.”
This god-given life, the Word, the Logos, Immanuel, Yeshua ben Yoseph, Jesus of Nazareth, was the light of everyone. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not put it out. John’s reference to the light also harkens us back to the first creation story in Genesis. God said, the Word said, “Let there be light; and there was light. . . . And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4) Remember this is before the sun is created. Night and day are created, which also created time, the 24 hour day.
But more importantly, the darkness that was before anything is split. It is divided. Darkness will not prevail over creation. The New Testament makes allusion to light as a metaphor for the proclamation of salvation. John is proclaiming the light that is the salvation for the world.
God sent a man named John, a different John, John the Baptist. He came to testify about the one who is the light so that everyone through the Light will believe. John was not the Light – only a messenger for the light. The true light that shines on us all was coming into the world.
That Word through whom we were created became one like us and lived among us. The Word became a human being, Jesus. Jesus had a particular face, stature, and eye color. The Word became flesh. This is a person who experienced life as we do. To become flesh is to know joy, pain, suffering, and loss. When we read the gospels, Jesus is thirsty, tired, angry, and weeping. He is also one with the Father.
Jesus continued to enjoy the same relationship with God. Only now, Jesus’ incarnation draws us into that relationship. We saw his glory with our own eyes – a glory that can only be like Father, like Son. It is he who is full of grace and truth. Jesus came into the world to reconcile the creation that came through him.
We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, thank you for the Light of the World, through whom we owe our lives and our very existence; may we live our lives reflecting that light to a world that, at times, becomes dark, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Light. Amen.
Text: John 1:1–14 (NRSV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,a and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.b
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,c and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who 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,d full of grace and truth.