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The Rector’s sermon for December 31, 2017                                                                                                                

 


Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 147:13-21; Gal. 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18


 

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…..  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”  Word and light, the two striking images in this morning’s gospel.

 

I went to a Roman Catholic grammar school from kindergarten through eighth grade.  And we were all expected to be at Mass every Sunday sitting with our class.  There were two rows saved for each class with the respective nun sitting at the edge of one row.  The kindergarten kids were in the first two rows and the eighth grade kids were in the back two rows.  So for the first couple of impressionable years, I was sitting in the front rows every time I attended Mass.  Now back in those days the Mass was in Latin.  I remember the part of the service where the priest and the altar boys faced the altar reciting the Nicene Creed.   And when they came to one particular part, they would bow very low and say the words “Et homo factus est” literally, “And he became man.”  I watched that week after week for many, many years, having no earthly idea how incredibly holy, powerful, awesome, humbling those words really are.   “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”

 

That is the most powerful statement found in Holy Scripture.  It takes us back to the beginning and it takes us into the future.  God’s word was present at the very beginning of creation, and God’s Word, Jesus Christ, became man for us that we might have life for all eternity.   Actually, the Trinity was present at creation:  The Father as the main “mover”, if you will, the Son…where is says “and God spoke”, God’s word as Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the words, “and the Spirit of God was moving over the waters.”  You can’t get much more powerful than that, but that’s a sermon for another day!

 

Equally powerful in John’s gospel, we heard the first 18 verses, the Prologue, the Prelude, the introduction to the whole story of Jesus Christ.   Most Scriptural and Christian themes have their beginning right here.  …In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . .”

 

Now in general, the term “word” carries several meanings.  It’s our for of communication.  Words make up sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, volumes.  God’s Word, given to us in Scripture, is powerful, reliable, and trustworthy.   We trust Scripture to reflect the Word of God, to express the Word of God.   And then…that Word from Scripture, the Word that was from the beginning of time, “became flesh and dwelt among us.”  And here lies the center of our Christian belief.  Jesus Christ, God’s Word Incarnate, the embodiment of God. 

 

On Christmas Day we heard the familiar story of Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the star.  It’s a story we all know and love.  It’s a sentimental message with creches and children’s pageants.  But the power in the message is the Word made flesh, God in Jesus Christ, willingly putting aside his divine nature, leaving his place at the right hand of his Father, to become one of us.  “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us….”  And becoming one of us meant he would share in our nature—our weaknesses, our strengths, our sorrows, our joys.  Our God in Jesus is not one who is remote, far away in some distant realm.  Someone once said, “If God seems distant from you, guess who moved?”  Whatever your situation in life, whether crisis or thanksgiving, God knows what you’re going through, he’s shared some of those things when he was on earth and he’s here with you now.   And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…

 

The other image that is striking in this Gospel is light.

…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

If you were in a room that was completely dark—no lights, no way of seeing anything---  and into that darkness you light one match, one candle, what happens to the darkness?   It’s gone!  It’s completely gone!  (We were reminded of this sight only three months ago when we were literally in darkness every day for two weeks after the sun went down!)  Darkness is the absence of light.  One small light can pierce the darkness such that the darkness can no longer remain.   The Light…is Jesus.   He was born into a world that was dark and lost with sin.   He pierced that darkness and lit such a light that the darkness could no longer exist.   In the big picture, sin has been defeated.  Now we know, there still is sin in the world so how can I say darkness has been defeated?   Well, saying that sin and darkness have been defeated is to say that the eternal ramifications of sin and darkness no longer exist.  Sin and the punishment for sin have been defeated.   Borrowing a line from Nicky Gumbel, the Anglican priest who does the Alpha videos, “The war is won, but we’re still in the mopping up operations.”  Eternal life awaits those who are the light of Christ in this world.  And for us Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, we are tasked to be that light to those around us, which is the reason we welcome newcomers with the words, “We are the Light of Christ in this place.”

 

Think about that image of light.   Light cannot exist in darkness.  Once light appears darkness is gone.   Simply put, light and dark cannot co-exist.   Now, if you as a loving follower of Jesus Christ are a light, a beacon of his truth and love, your presence will pierce the darkness wherever you are—in your families, in work situations, in the community, in the world.  And the darkness will be changed by who you are.  That’s why when a true Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ, a true bearer of the Christ-light is in the company of unbelievers, there is tension… because darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.

 

Word and light.  Two of the most powerful images in Scripture to define Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the Light of the World, the Son of God, the Child of Bethlehem. 

 

As we approach another year, the world may not change, but it’s up to us to continue to share the Word of God whenever we can, and to embody the Light of Christ so each one of us can be one little light in our dark world.  How blessed we are to believe that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”


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