By the Rev. Darren Miner
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Merry Christmas! And just so you know, I intend to say that till Twelfth Night on January 5th.
For those of you who attended the Christmas Day Eucharist, the Gospel reading today must sound rather familiar. For reasons beyond my pay grade to question, the Gospel reading for the First Sunday after Christmas is the basically the same reading as that of Christmas Day. The only difference is that four additional verses have been added to the end. Now I knew about this ahead of time. And my original intention was to have Fr. Webber preach today. I thought it would be interesting to get two different perspectives on the same reading. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Fr. Webber was unable to preach, so you get to hear my voice again on the very same subject. I apologize if I repeat myself.
Today’s Gospel reading serves as a prologue to the whole Gospel of John. It is sort of like the overture to a musical or opera. It introduces the audience to the themes that will be elaborated more fully later in the work. The purpose of this particular overture is to introduce us to Jesus Christ. But it goes about it in an unexpected way. St. Matthew and St. Luke start where most biographers would be expected to begin, with the story of Jesus’ birth. St. John starts at the very beginning, the beginning of all things at Creation!
He tells us about the relationship between God and a divine being called “the Word.” Now, in the original Greek, the name of this being is Logos. Yes, it can be translated as Word. But it can also mean Reason or Order. This Logos existed with God before time itself. Creation was mediated through him. And in some sense, one can even say that the Logos is God.
This pre-existent divine person is the giver of reason and structure to the Universe. He is the one who maintains order in the midst of chaos, the one who supports life in the midst of death, the one whose divine Truth illumines the darkness of ignorance.
Now St. John was not the only Jew of his day to speak of the existence of a divine Logos. But what distinguishes him is his claim that the Logos was incarnated, that is, he became flesh and blood, and that he lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ. Actually, what John says is that the Logos became flesh and pitched his tent among us. The reference here is to a very particular tent, the Tabernacle where the Jews worshiped God before the building of a Temple. St. John ever so subtly implies that Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Logos, is the new Tabernacle, where we can go to encounter God.
Admittedly, all this mystical theology seems remote from our daily experience. But it really isn’t! What the doctrine of the Incarnation tells us is that the divine Logos, later identified as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, came to us as one of us to save us. As St. Athanasius puts it, the Logos “became human that we might become divine … [and he] endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality.” Out of love, the Logos emptied himself of his deity and took the form of a finite, mortal human being. And as do all of us, he came into the world as a tiny baby. As an infant, the divine maintainer of the order of the Universe suffered the indignity of having to have his diaper changed when he had soiled himself. And as an adult, he suffered the indignity and the agony of the Cross. All for the love of us!
The Logos came into the world as the man Jesus Christ and suffered death, so that we might have eternal life. And as the Gospel of John makes abundantly clear, eternal life begins in the here and now. We experience it every time we open our hearts and minds to God’s grace. When we are reborn at baptism, we know eternal life. Each week, when we receive the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, we know eternal life. When we remember to look up at the night sky and glory at God’s handiwork, we know eternal life. And even in the darkest moment of grief, when we receive an unexpected word of consolation or a silent hug, we know eternal life. And there is literally no end to it, if we but we hold fast to our faith in the Incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ.
Best of all, God’s grace is absolutely free. It cannot be bought or earned. But it can be shared! And we are all asked to share it. We are asked to share our experience of Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist, we are meant to testify to what we know and to point to the one who came into the world to bring light and life. We do this by both what we say and by what we do.
Now, not all of us here today are extroverts; some find it painfully hard to speak about their faith. I understand that. But do it anyway! What you have to share is unique, and no one but you can do it! And when words don’t suffice, share your experience of God’s saving grace through action. Show someone what it feels like to experience godly love. Christmas may only last twelve days, but as Christians, we are supposed to display the Christmas spirit year round. We are supposed to share what we have with others. We are to share our faith with those who have no faith, our hope with those who have no hope, our love with those who have no love, and our food and money with those who have no food or money. Out of God’s love, we have all received grace upon grace, gift upon gift, and the greatest of these gifts is eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. As we go out into the world today, let us remember to share what we have received…out of sheer gratitude.
© 2015 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.