2nd SUNDAY OF CHRISTMAS – January 4, 2015
Brenda Tibbetts, AiM
Open the eyes of our hearts Lord…and now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, our rock, and our redeemer. Amen.
Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace. Amen.
For the past couple of worship services, we have been hearing the story of Jesus’ birth from either the Gospels of Matthew or Luke.
* Matthew’s Gospel finds it important to share the role of Joseph in Jesus’ life and the role that dreams played in keeping the child safe. For Matthew, Jesus’ earthly geneology is important to intentionally link Jesus back to Abraham, reminding us of God’s covenant promises and the fulfillment of those promises in Jesus Christ. Matthew also introduces us to the magi – learned men “outside” of the Jewish tradition who came a far distance seeking out the newborn king. They came as seekers and left as worshipers. Matthew sends out believers with the good news and the promise that in Christ, God is with us, Emmanuel , even to the end of the age.
* In Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit plays a decisive role in the life of Mary and in the birth of Jesus. Like Matthew, Luke also includes “outsiders” in Jesus’ birth story. But these “outsiders” are of more lowly origin who come to seek out the babe of Bethlehem. We are amazed God has chosen lowly shepherds to share the good news! Luke is very methodical in its historical setting as well as Jesus’ earthly geneology – connecting Jesus all the way back to Adam; as son of God, full of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Luke’s gospel mentions several times how Jesus was filled by the Spirit. The same Spirit who filled Jesus is the same who empowered the believers in Luke and The Book of Acts to boldly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. It is the same Holy Spirit today – given to us as a gift and mark of our inheritance.
* It is no wonder that we do not hear a birth story in the Gospel of Mark because Mark’s objective is spelled out right up front. He is in a hurry, taking us along with Jesus right to the cross. Birth events would just get in the way of pondering “The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” As hurried as Mark might be, there is a beauty in slowing down our own cultural calendar to ponder and celebrate Christmas just a little longer.
* And so this morning, the Gospel of John takes us on an entirely different approach to celebrating Jesus’ beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John’s Gospel is from a cosmic viewpoint. Christ came as light into darkness, as life to a dying world, as living bread, living water, resurrection and life. Christ, as the great “I AM”. Not just for Adam. Not just for Abraham. Not just for Joseph and Mary. Not just for learned wisemen or lowly shepherds or even the heavenly host. Not just for you or me. Christ came for all: including all of creation, all creatures and all of humankind! No exceptions. No exclusions.
His coming, his “tenting”/his “abiding” with us flips the entire created order upside down and all around.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth…”
Even though we have just celebrated the beginning of a brand new calendar year, keeping Christmas for another Sunday is an important opportunity to re-introduce us to Christ in our midst from before the beginning of time throughout all time and eternity. The Gospel of John’s “Ethereal Birth Announce-ment” brings beautiful promises given – for us. Promises that give hope and peace as we begin a New Year. Promises that give us identity and purpose; as well as delight and a responsibility to share them with all people and all of creation!
John’s Gospel says, “To all who receive[d]him, who believe[d] in his name, he gave[gives] power to become children of God!” (John 1.12) and “From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.” (John 1.16) Such beautiful promises!
These same gifts and promises are reiterated in Ephesians where we are reminded of God’s blessedness in Jesus Christ, “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us…In him, you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel [the good news] of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1.3-7, 13-14) You may want to underline these verses in your bulletin or in your Bible at home!
As we begin a New Year, it is far too tempting to focus in on all the headlines of danger and wickedness throughout the world. It is easy to become discouraged or cynical and lose hope. And yet, in Matthew and Luke, we see that Jesus was born in a very dangerous time and place. Mark shows us that Jesus lived and died in a very dangerous time. But we know that isn’t the end of the story!
John’s Gospel reminds us, it was in the fullness of God’s timing, that it took place then and then. In the fullness of God’s timing, may Jesus be born into our hearts, “So that, with the eyes of your[our] heart[s] enlightened, you[we] may know what is the hope to which he has called you[us], what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1.19-20)
As we go forth into this New Year, whether it is back to school, back to regular routines or off to Jamaica, we go as Children of God, chosen before the foundation of the world, bearing the True Light which enlightens everyone and is not overcome by darkness! We carry the hope of God’s love which has been poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. That, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is indeed “The Beginning of the Good News for all people.” Thanks be to God. Amen.