Isaiah 61:10–62:3; Galatians 3:23–25, 4:4–7; John 1:1–18


I always remember as a child going to church on Christmas Day and
then again on the first Sunday after Christmas and being hugely
disappointed to hear the Gospel of John that we have heard this morning.
Inevitably I would turn to my life-long theological sparring
partner, my father, and begin to quiz him closely about why we weren’t
still talking about baby Jesus, it being Christmas after all. I don’t
remember any explanation that he gave me that ever made sense to me as a
child. Frankly when the explanation made sense I had arrived at that
theological wilderness called adolescence and really didn’t care. Oh how
I remember my close questioning about the infancy and childhood of Jesus
as I was convinced that my father, and the rest of the church had some
secret knowledge of Jesus that no one wanted to share. Instead every
Christmas we would hear this long gospel that sounded so much to my
child’s ears like those popular automobile ads, “In the
beginning…blah, blah, blah, blah…‘grace and truth’…blah,
blah…John the Baptist, blah, blah (hmm thought we were done with him)
blah, blah”. The Gospel of the Lord, good now I can sit.

There are two conclusions that one can reach from this story. The
first is that this is the sort of theological imagination that makes The
DaVinci Code
a best seller, and the second is that eventually the power
of this hymn to God and its majestic cosmic re-telling of the
incarnation of the Son of God over time have captured my heart and
imagination. The truth repeatedly explained to a child is the truth of
this day. The story of the birth of Jesus is vital to our faith. The
story of what a difference that makes in our lives personally and
communally is equally important. To tell that story on this second day
of Christmas we must take our eyes away from the manger and look to the
very beginning of creation.

God speaks and creation begins, states this gospel according to John.
All light, all matter, all creatures, all humanity, all grace, and all
truth come into being by the loving voice of God. God’s Word
creates a universe physically, morally and spiritually. It is this
speaking person of God who is sent to us, takes on our flesh, our
substance and our life. Our God, to paraphrase the title of a Restoration
era comedic play, “stoops to conquer.” God’s
providential care for all that God has made is expressed in shockingly
intimate ways. God meets us on our own terms, sharing our humanity with
no privileges. Jesus is born into a family with no economic or religious
standing. There are no extra points for being the Son of God in this
life. In the birth of Jesus God inhabits our newborn vulnerability and
dependency, our emotions and senses. This Word Jesus grows to adulthood
full of the same temptations that we face, and dies our death in as
degraded and excruciating a way as we can imagine. God chooses in this
life-giving Word to be born to overcome our sin and death, to
create a new potential for our lives now.

The Gospel of John doesn’t stint on the scandal of our response
to this gracious gift, this glimpse of the heart of God. We degrade it
in ways great and small. Think of our culture in which how we speak
about bending low and reaching out to others inclusively is dismissively
referred to as “blanding,” “dumbing down” or
“playing to the lowest common denominator.” Might this be
said of what God did in the birth of Jesus? Our human darkness is a
chauvinism that says from the moment of this birth that being one of us
is ordinary, banal and unimaginative. Martin Luther responded to this
pointedly by stating that consolation accrues the more we allow Christ
to come down and take on our nature and our flesh. Jesus was born to
take on all of our suffering and pain, our sorrows and joys, our dreams
and disappointments, our bondage to death itself as the utter end of
all. Jesus was born to grow up and journey through our torments and our
great joys. As long as we are alive we will never outgrow our need for
this extraordinary gift of salvation. What came to be in Jesus is a life
that God holds as a gift for all those who love God.

What all of our Scripture texts point to this day is the overwhelming
desire of God to give such an extraordinary gift of God’s self.
Moreover we are being sent this gift not as shirttail relatives or
acquaintances. The gift is not an act of social or seasonal obligation
on God’s part. This abundant gift is being sent to God’s own
children, and it is a gift without strings, offered to us for the pure
joy, delight and pleasure of giving. This is what makes it a gift of
grace. As it is our privilege to be God’s children, so it is that
one of our most precious possessions as children is the freedom to say
yes or no to this gift. Exercising this option to say yes or no to
God’s redemption and salvation everyday is crucial. It is our
free assent, our yes that allows this light to shine in us, bringing the
much desired and promised relationship with God not only for us, but for
all who learn from us about this light and love of God.

Here is the truth we know why this birth matters. Tempting as it is
to linger at the manger, succumbing to the eighth deadly sin of
sentimentality by keeping Jesus imprisoned in his infancy, God’s
Word Jesus comes to us with an adult mission to be the light, the truth,
the love of God in the world now as God’s children, brothers and
sisters of Christ. God in Jesus is doing a new and unexpected
thing. We are invited to show a bleak, sorrowful and sin-filled
world that believes that the only way anything changes is at the end of
a gun, or through the wretched excesses of power politics, or the
well-directed bomb, or by all consuming greed, or by better living
through chemistry, that in a single birth God changed the life of the
universe forever. We can be so very, very evil, but we can never undo
this consummate act of love for us and for all creation.

It is a new day. We are not who we were yesterday. Night will fall
and countless stars will be born. When the turkey carcass is tossed, the
last ornament tucked away for another year, that one stubborn tree
needle swept away, when we think Christmas has come and gone,
that’s just the time, the beginning in a place we can’t
imagine, in a way that we don’t want to believe, for God to be
born. We can wait and watch. We can look away or receive, but it is not
over. This birth is not over. Amen.