For Christmas. On the gifts of the Revealer.
A recording of this sermon can be found here beginning at 11:40.
John 1:1-18: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 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.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 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.
(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (NRSV)
Greetings to you and peace from God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Abiding Holy Spirit.
For one of my classes in seminary, we were given the assignment to create a curriculum for a weekend retreat. I was having a hard time choosing a focus for my hypothetical retreat so I went to Facebook to crowdsource some ideas. I was surprised by the responses that I got. Actually, the response I got. Every single person who responded to my query wanted a retreat that addressed managing change.
We have a tense relationship with change, don’t we? We all yearn for change in some areas of our lives while we desperately hold it at bay in others. We dread the changes that might come to some of our people, but are anxious for other people in our life to do something else. When change comes, as it inevitably will, we are thrown off balance all over again, in a whole new way. Some parts of ourselves slipping beyond our reach, other parts of ourselves coming into stark focus, while yet others are just emerging. Grief, fear, anger, sadness, love, excitement, desire, disappointment all emerge from navigating change. Caught in the currents of change, every single person somehow arrives at the same conclusion: that to be able to successfully manage we must constrict ourselves, commit to one strategy, one worldview, and execute that strategy over and over again so that we might be the masters of change.
And, yet, every Christmas season, we come together to celebrate the good news that God changed. That God transformed. That God became something new. And in so doing, revealed God more fully to the world.
The prologue to John’s gospel traces The Word’s steadfast and unfolding relationship with creation. We are reminded of our beginning together - when God initiated the unfurling of creation. The Word was there. The Word emerged as the aspect of God who reveals, who promotes intimacy between the wholeness of God and creation with the gift of life itself. Life reveals God to us. But it wasn’t enough yet. So we are also reminded of the giving of the Law through God’s servant Moses. Again the Word gave to promote intimacy between the wholeness of God and creation. But God wasn’t done yet. It wasn’t finished yet. So this time God the Word came into creation itself, regenerated and enfleshed as Jesus Christ, to reveal to people the fullness of God and to give people the power to be born anew, to transform, just as God the Word had been born as something unique.
We know that Jesus’ birth wasn’t the end. That the Word lived among them, but that didn’t last either. God wasn’t satisfied at only being born, but went on to grow, to suffer, to die, to resurrect, and to ascend back to heaven, changed. And even now Jesus has promised to return to us someday. All of this is to reveal more of God to us. To show us that to be included in the power and life of God is to receive change. Change reveals what we did not know but now do, what we did not understand but we now see. Change promotes intimacy because it makes us look anew, meet anew, all over again. In the gifts and life of Jesus, we look to meet God anew over and over again. God, who John reminds us has never been seen but longs to be known, God who is massive and miniscule, near and far, fierce and gentle, just and merciful, thunderous and silent, would be welcomed home by us.
John says to us as some of those who have received Jesus as The Word that we carry the power to transform. We were given the power to pass through the portal of birth to live in wholeness as a child of God brought to the bosom of God. A life near God is not one where you receive once and become static, but receive over and over and over again, changed by each gift.
As recipients of gift upon gift, may we receive change in our lives as if there was no such thing as bad weather, but only insufficient clothing. May God the Word release our grip on our narrow strategies and worldviews. As siblings of Christ the Revealer, may others receive us as people who can change their minds, change their habits, change even their identities; people who repent, learn, forgive, grow, retire, rest, rejoice, and mourn. As children of God, may we change, transform, be born, die, change again so that we may be kept close to God.