Sermon: A Christmas Meditation
Scripture: John 1.1-14 (MSG)
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, DeLand
Date: December 25, 2016, Christmas Day, Year A
This morning we are hearing the Apostle John’s unique Christmas Story. Whereas Matthew has a very hasty mention of Jesus’ birth and Luke’s gospel is most detailed with angel appearances to men, women, and shepherds, John’s birth narrative begins at a different place. Instead of beginning with the birth of the baby Jesus, John begins with how the baby described in Matthew and Luke is none other than the one who gave birth to the whole Creation as the Cosmic Christ. At first blush, you might say to yourself, “Well, so what?” I mean, after all, John’s version of the Christmas Story is not all warm and fuzzy with bleating sheep, lowing animals, and a gentle fire burning outside the manger to keep the Holy Family warm. It’s much more, well, philosophical sounding as compared to Matthew and Luke’s accounts. Consequently, as we hear the Scripture this morning, I want you to hear the words from a different translation than you are accustomed to hearing it from so as to jar your familiarity with it; perhaps, just maybe all of us can hear these words of Christmas birth and hope anew with fresh ears and eyes of our hearts.
Our text comes from the first 14 verses of John’s gospel. You might find it helpful that as you hear John use the phrase, “The Word,” you can substitute that in your mind as “The Eternal Son of God, Jesus”; in fact, each time you hear me say “Word” in our reading, I’ll pause and let you say out loud in response, “The Eternal Son of God, Jesus.” Listen afresh to the Word of the Lord and the Spirit stir in your hearing something you have never heard before!
John 1:1-14, The Message
1:1-2 The Word “The Eternal Son of God, Jesus” was first,
the Word “The Eternal Son of God, Jesus” present to God,
God present to the Word “The Eternal Son of God, Jesus”.
The Word “The Eternal Son of God, Jesus” was God,
in readiness for God from day one.
3-5 Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing! —
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
6-8 There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.
9-13 The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Life
he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
14 The Word “The Eternal Son of God, Jesus” became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.(1)
As Pastor Bodger reminded us last Sunday, many of us have become too comfortable and familiar with the Christmas Story of a baby born in the manger. John’s account is the needed check on reality to remind us that the Baby born in Bethlehem was the very-before-and-beyond-time God of all that is, was, and is to come. John so beautifully says in verse 14, And the Word (the Eternal Son of God) became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We even saw the glory with our own two eyes!
Today my beloved, we come and worship the utterly nonsensical-sounding and wildly fantastic Story of how God pierced our understanding of time and became like you and me in every single way through this Jesus. The Eternal Word becomes like you and me and stitches everything together in our time and lives both beyond our time into God’s timeless eternity. It means the Eternal God knows your joy just as the Lord knows your pain and suffering. It means the Eternal God had to hold a job in this life like you and me and knew the struggles of living with family who at times thought he was out of his mind. It means the Eternal God born in the baby Jesus knows the sting of hate and death as well as the comfort from lying in the safety of his mother’s tender breast. God, my beloved, in the baby Jesus, known as the Eternal Word, moved into the neighborhood.
The question for you and me is what do we do with our new neighbor? The moving truck has been unloaded and is pulling away. Now what? Do we run over and introduce ourselves? Do we take over our best holiday dish and casserole? Or, do we simply mutter, “I’m glad that dang moving truck has finally left and isn’t blocking up traffic anymore”?
The Slaughter family wrote out a poem in their Christmas card to us that
was originally written by a late resident of Daytona Beach who was both a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King and the early civil rights movement and was an influential theologian, professor, pastor and writer. Dr. Howard Thurman wrote a beautiful piece that speaks to you and me today as we leave this morning and embark on a new year of life. It reminds us that the Cosmic Christ, the Eternal Son of God who dared to become like you and me moved into the neighborhood is calling you and me to go do the same right where we live, we work and we play. It’s titled, “The Work of Christmas.”
Then the son of the angels is stilled
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are back with their flocks
the work of Christmas beings:
to find the lost
to heal the broken
to feed the hungry
to release the prisoner
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among the people
to make music in the heart.
And to radiate the Light of Christ
every day, in every way, in all
that we do and all that we say.
then the work of Christmas begins.
From my family to yours, blessings abound upon you this Christmas and throughout the brand, new year. And all God’s people proclaim, Amen!
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
724 North Woodland Blvd.
DeLand, Florida 32720
© 2016 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
(1) Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. The words contained in the “ “ signs are for the congregation to say back to me and are not part of the translation.