theunfamiliarname

Homily for Christmas Day 2010

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm

You only get one chance to make a first impression,
so you’d better make it snappy, make it pithy, make it memorable.

The writer of John’s Gospel certainly knew that,
and this morning we have the glorious poetry of his prologue,
words that reach before time, before anything “was”
reaching into our very lives and our experience, … this day.

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …
And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory…

These are among the most famous, the most profound,
the most all-encompassing words in the whole of Scripture.

And they still speak to us,
as they did to the early generations of Christians,
as in a few short lines,
John tells the story of creation, incarnation, redemption, faith and hope,
a whole theology on a single page,
gently foreshadowing the whole story he will tell
in the Gospel that bears his name.

Without tinsel or glitter,
without the cuteness of babies and shepherds and angels,
John manages to tell not just the Christmas story,
but the meaning of that story.

In a world where form wins out over content every time,
John demands we examine what the birth of a baby in Bethlehem
says to us and our world.

A world, it is not denied, where darkness exists,
but one where that makes life and light all the brighter,
and our need for that light the more urgent.

The light shines in our darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

In this beautiful passage we are presented with “the Word”.

Words have power, they describe and shape that which is.

“The Word” too is a Greek philosophical notion, logos,
of some overarching force or reality or reason,
some disembodied glue that holds the universe together
and in that makes sense of it,
or some perfect image of that which is.

Something akin perhaps to the abstraction,
the fluffiness we speak of at this time of year, “the spirit of Christmas”.

Something like the indistinct cloudy concept many have of “God”
In John’s Gospel , he makes it clear that in Jesus of Nazareth,
such nebulous abstractions
put on flesh and blood.

For only in doing that, can we touch them and be touched.
In this little child, lying in the storybook setting
of a stable, in a manger,
we are told that God the idea
becomes God who intersects with every human life.
That the God who creates all things,
the timeless source of the cosmos,
is as close to us as our own creative potential,
as our families, as our own skin and bone.

In this child,
we are shown that yes, every life is holy,
and yet that in the child born today in the city of David
we glimpse the goodness and the glory of the eternal God.
We are gifted light and power and rebirth ourselves.
And we cannot help but be changed by that.

We are invited to reclaim our place as children of God,
and to enter into the wonder of God at work with us and our world.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

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