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Christmas 2B Sermon
John 1: 1-18
January
3, 2021

 

Sermon Archives
 

 

John 1:1-18

In 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. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

We are still in the season of Christmas. We continue to dwell in the concept that God’s Word and love became flesh and blood in and through Jesus Christ. By now, we have moved past the stage of being sentimental over a tiny newborn baby as we consider what a gift Jesus is to the world as our savior. This seems to be a very counter-cultural theme as people seem to have moved past Christmas already … at least by New Year’s Day.

I am reminded of a movie, which I am kind of embarrassed to admit in church to seeing, called Talladega Nights. In one scene around the dinner table, NASCAR driver, Ricky Bobby, and his family pause to say grace before they dive into their feast of Domino’s Pizza, KFC and Taco Bell. Rick continually addresses God as, “little baby Jesus.” After few times doing this, his wife finally interrupts him and says, “You know, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby Jesus!” Ricky answered, “I like the baby Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grown up Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearder Jesus or whoever you want…” And then to emphasize the point he continues in his prayer, “…dear eight pound, six ounce newborn Jesus …”

Truth be told, if we had our option we would like to sit with a little 8 pound six ounce baby for a little while longer, but we cannot. Thursday night we turned over the page on yet another calendar, and we need the blessings of Jesus, God’s Word incarnate, the light who shines in the darkness, right now in our lives. We cannot wait until he is weaned, diaper trained, learns to walk and feed himself. It is crucial that we get to the heart of the incarnation right away since our world is still so full of sin and evil.

The church has always acknowledged this need, and the proof is in the three commemoration days that follow Christmas each year. On December 26 we honor St. Stephen, the first martyr, stoned to death on account of his faith and discipleship. On December 27th we honor the disciple, John who ironically was the only one of the twelve to live a long life and die of natural causes, but who Jesus’ calling by tending to his mother, Mary, in her older age. And then on the 28th, we remember the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents – those children under the age of two years old who were killed by order of Herod when he heard of Jesus’ birth. Right away the church acknowledges that this child was born to make a difference in the world, and that his followers have sacrificed even their own lives to continue to embody the love made flesh that broke into the world on that first Christmas night.

The most powerful line in our Gospel reading today is verse twelve: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh … but of God.” That phrase, “he gave power to become children of God,” is actually better translated, “he gave authority to exist as children of God.” Giving someone permission or authority to exist as someone else’s child is known as adoption. Legal adoptions were more common in ancient times than they are today and served to allow for an heir to someone who either was without children, or whose children had died before them. It also granted social status to someone who had no parents – by this legal association, the adoptee would share the parents’ social status, which was extremely important. Those adopted were not only children, but also some adults. By this association, the adopted person would be permanently attached to the social status and wealth of the one who adopted them – it was more difficult to legally separate yourself from an adoptive parent than from a biological one. The author of the letter to the Ephesians reminds us in the same way that we were destined for adoption by God through Jesus Christ so that we might live to the praise of God’s glory.

Having been given the authority to live as children of God, we not only share the status and wealth of citizens of God’s eternal realm, but we also share in the mission of the one who came to bring light to a dark world, and share the abundance of grace inherent within him as true God and truly human. It would be a shame if we settled on being infatuated by the sweetness of a cute but silent baby as we worship and follow Jesus during this Christmas season. We are called to move past a “baby Christianity” to a mature faith which brings about thoughtful, free responses from us to reflect the light and love of Jesus.

I am so glad that Hannah agreed to help again this morning with worship before she goes returns for her next semester at college. It reminds me that the little girl who stole my heart has now grown into a mature young person who, shaped by her faith, education, family and friends, impresses me regularly with her words and actions that demonstrate a genuine care and concern for all people, regardless of who they are or what they are like. All parents have to come to the point where their tiny babies grow up to be their own people, just as Jesus did. As with Hannah, Jesus seems to have grown up in the blink of an eye – next week he will be 32 and being baptized in the Jordan by John! Life for all of us seems to go in the blink of an eye, so we are called to see in every moment an opportunity given to us by God to love our neighbors and reflect Christ’s light, truth and grace.
Leading up to the New Year, I had to chuckle because it seemed like some people thought that when the ball dropped Thursday night, suddenly we would get a reset, and all of the cares that weigh on our hearts and minds from this past year would vanish. Of course, that is not true. Things didn’t immediately change like the snap of a finger. The world is still full of sin and evil, whether it be in the form of a virus or of the systems of racism, or of people prone to violence and greed. Because of this reality, it is so important that we move past this tiny, innocent child in a manger to who he really is: God’s Word made flesh, full of grace and truth! 2021 will certainly be filled with sin and yes, even death. But it will also be filled with God’s grace and truth, and the Christ that has brought us into relationship with God through adoption will dwell with us as we were promised, just as we dwell in that wonderful grace and truth. It won’t always be popular in the world, and I pray for Hannah and other young people who will face opposition when they dedicate their lives to helping people and living out their faith. Remember that we will sing about this Christ child that, “Nails, spears shall pierce him through, the cross be born for me, for you.” But also remember that the enduring love of God overflows, and the glow of the true light shines and that is the true gift of this baby whose birth we will celebrate for a few more days.

Finally, I hope that those who do not share my devotion to Ohio State Football will indulge me this moment. Six years ago, the Buckeyes pulled off an upset of Alabama in the Sugar bowl, and we had about 30 people in our house eating, drinking, shouting, high-fiving and sharing the joy of that victory. This past Friday night was another big Sugar Bowl win, but I watched with my neighbors Steve and Tracie, sitting quietly on the end of their couch, keeping to ourselves except for the occasional fist bump. It was a reminder of the challenges we still face in the midst of the good times that we still enjoy. We know that life is so much more than a football game or other sporting event. And so, as we continue to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” this year, may we remember the profound hope that arrives with Jesus and remains with us always – so that, with full power to exist as children of God, we may risk our very selves in loving God, loving Jesus, and loving each other with lives that are full of God’s grace and truth. Amen.