Christmas Light

Before I can truly begin this sermon, I must make a confession to you all. I have never been to church on Christmas day before. I’ve faithfully attended many Christmas Eve services, sometimes even 3 or 4 in one year but never a Christmas day service. So hats off to those of you who are here today, you may already know the truth of Christmas in a way I am just beginning to see. Because I’ve never been to church on Christmas morning, I did not know that the Gospel appointed by the lectionary is the prologue to John’s Gospel. I do of course know the reading well, it was one of the first things we learned in Seminary. But reading it on Christmas day has given it a fresh meaning for me.

            Last night we heard all about the birth of Jesus. We heard about Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds and of course the baby Jesus in a manger. Last night had all the festivity and excitement that might accompany the birth of a new family member. Yet Christmas Eve is really the beginning and not the conclusion of Christmas. One commentary I read suggested that Christmas morning is much like the experience of new parents being left alone with their baby. All of the extended family members are gone, and the new parents realize that their life will never be the same. In my own life, Christmas morning reminds me of the feeling I had after our wedding was over and all the guests were gone but we hadn’t left for our trip yet. It also reminds me of a moment after my ordination when my family went out to the grocery store and I was left at home to think about what had just happened. Perhaps you can recall a similar moment in your own life? A time where you were left alone to ponder the significance of a major event, because that is where we are this morning.

On Christmas morning we are left alone with the baby Jesus to ponder what it all means. What does it mean for us to know that God took human form and came to live on earth? The prologue to John’s Gospel that we just heard helps us think about just that. One commentator suggests that this prologue is a “threshold poem” because it shows us how what was has “crossed over into becoming.”[1] In this case, John’s prologue moves us from the birth of Jesus Christ to the reality of the incarnation. We knew the same God before the birth of Christ, and we worshipped the same God. But now we know God differently, so we must worship God differently. The arrival of God incarnate or Jesus Christ profoundly changed our understanding of God. Now that we have celebrated the birth of Jesus, we must settle into the new reality that the Word became flesh and lived among us.

 

So what does life with God incarnate look like?

 

Life with a God incarnate must mean many things because John’s poetic prologue to his gospel gives us a broad vision of the work that Jesus came to earth to do. Christ is a part of creation and no part of creation exists without him. John concretely connects Jesus to the creation narrative found in Genesis. Jesus is a part of our beginning. But even more than this Jesus came to earth to be the light. In fact the word light appears 6 times in the reading. John really wants us to know that Christ’s birth brings light to the world.

What will this light do? Most of our associations with light are joyful and peaceful. Think of all the Christmas lights we see around our neighborhood. We believe that this light of Christ will bring joy, peace and love. Yet we know that light only exists because there is darkness, light is defined by the shadows. John’s gospel does not gloss over the existence of evil and darkness, but rather affirms that Christ’s light will prevail. The darkness of the world may threaten the light of Christ but it cannot extinguish it. As we think about our life with an incarnate God, we can think about the light of Christ and what places of darkness need His light. How can we share the light of Christ that has been given to us this Christmas?

            In his Christmas video, our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, talks about what God came on earth to do. Bishop Curry explains that Jesus came to show us how to love, and how to make this world what God dreams it could be, not just the nightmare it sometimes is. This love is the creative work of God incarnate that we are called into. We are invited by our own births and baptisms to be a part of this creative work of loving. We are called to share the light of Christ with one another.

So ultimately, the message of God incarnate is one of love and hope. We hope that with the light of Christ we can love the world into the dream God has for us. Amen.

 

 

 

 

[1] “John,” in The Literary Guide to the Bible, ed. Robert Alter and Frank Kermode (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), 445.