- December 25, 2016
Christmas Day, 2016
“In the beginning was the Word.”
Those words from the Prologue to the Gospel of John are probably not how most of us begin the Christmas story.
Luke gives is the so familiar, and poignant, story with angels and shepherds and the baby born amidst animals in a barn.
Matthew gives us the star and the magi—a different story, but one we can imagine, and play out in pageants every year.
John give us— “Word.”
No story at all about the baby’s birth—nothing about Jesus until he is fully grown—just a mystical introduction of Jesus as God, and light and life.
Not a cute, cuddly, tiny baby, but the embodiment of God, the Incarnation of the Holy.
Now, before I say any more, I want to assure you that I love those Christmas stories—yes, stories, because the two of them, Luke and Matthew, are very different.
I love picturing the stable, or cave, where Mary and Joseph found shelter. I love imaging the fear and delight of the shepherds when the angels sang to them about this baby, this amazing birth.
I love the special Christmas music, all the sparkly decorations, the food, and the joy that can be felt now in a special way.
I love those stories, but they tell us about a baby, a very special baby to be sure. I also know that is all many people ever hear or know about Jesus.
Christmas, Christ’s birth, is about God’s glory, God coming to be among us, be us.
Matthew and Luke give us stories that last for a day.
John gives us Incarnation, God with flesh on, that is always and for ever. This day and yesterday and all our tomorrows.
One day, or forever—that seems to be the choice with our stories.
Well, I’ll admit that for many folks the choice for this day is all about buying, and finding the best bargain, and that starts long before December 25.
It is a frenzy of commercialism, mixed with giving and sharing. We do bring joy and wonder to those who open our gifts.
We feel joy and wonder as we open the gifts for us. But this is only a small part of what Christmas means.
True, we do hear about Emanuel—God with us—but that is hidden by the tinsel and lights and Santa and Rudolph…
John tells us that this Jesus, this Incarnation, is God’s Word, God’s activity, God’s behavior, God’s personality, if you will, bringing God’s justice, peace, hope…
This inbreaking of God into the world brings life and light to all of us.
So this day, this Incarnation we celebrate and sing and pray—this is much more than Christmas day, much more than the most wonderful presents you could imagine—to give or receive.
This Incarnation is God with us, God in us every day of our lives. Whether we are aware of it or not. Whether we respond to it or not.
So later today, when the gift wrap is all tossed away, and the new shiny gifts have been admired and put away, Christmas is not over.
Not even on the 12th day when we move to another church season.
Incarnation is not just Jesus coming to be with us for a time.
Incarnation is God being with us, IN us, every day of our lives.
The Incarnation is God becoming like us so that we may become like God.
We are God with flesh on, we are to be God’s word, God’s activity, God’s behavior in the world.
How does God behave? With love. Can we do this?
When we look around, we may think that the world is in so much trouble that we are helpless to change it.
We are the light of Christ in the world, and our behavior, our activity, shows the world about God.
Incarnation—God with flesh on. If we are those who follow Christ, that is who we are. Bringers of justice, peace, hope, joy….
When I leave here this morning, I’ll go home and celebrate Christmas. I’ll open some gifts, and give some gifts, have a special Christmas dinner and rejoice, even on a dark, dreary winter day, because the light of Christ has come into the world.
Then tomorrow, and all the days after, I will rejoice, and wonder, and have some healthy fear, too, that I am God with flesh on, the light of God in the world.
I hope you will join me in that—and when Christmas Day is just a memory, we will be God’s Incarnation every day.