The Pas Christmas Day
25 December 2016
God whose Word became flesh, breathe a new song of joy and praise into the world, so that we may bear the good news of your salvation and proclaim your promise of peace to the ends of the earth; through Christ the Word. Amen.
Last night we welcomed the birth of the Christ child in song and with praise. Last night, we came together to relive the Christmas story, to experience the angel choirs, to witness with the shepherds travelling through the night the heavenly acclamation of the birth of the Messiah.
Last night, we went apart uplifted by the songs by the people all around us, and we awoke this morning to the love and the joy of the day – Christmas. We celebrated the wise men’s participation in the Christmas miracle, by the exchange of gifts, and we will once more go apart to enjoy feasts to commemorate the occasion when family gathers in joy and in holiness and remembers the arrival of Emmanuel, God made manifest in the world around us.
It’s finally arrived, the day for which we have planned, and cleaned, and decorated, and acquired gifts to commemorate the day.
It’s finally arrived, God’s fulfillment of the promise that the Messiah, the Christ will be born into the world, not to condemn the world, but rather to save the world through him. (Jn 3:16-17)
And it’s this salvation, it’s this sanctification that really sets Jesus apart, the fact that he comes to save, not condemn the world.
These days, I find that there is too much condemnation in the world.
We condemn when we disagree with someone’s position. We condemn when we don’t agree with their lifestyle. We condemn when we don’t understand and don’t wish to open our hearts to that understanding.
We condemn when we refuse to open our lives and our hearts to others around us and strive more to keep ourselves locked away from the love of God, much less from each other.
John talks about this in the gospel for today. John points out who Jesus is – creator of the heavens and the earth – had a hand in everything that was created, and without him, nothing was created. (Jn 1:3)
And this was a world that was also quick to point out condemnation rather than acceptance, rather than looking for the love of God in the events of our lives.
People, were feeling the Roman oppression, the oppression from their own national leaders as well, and they wanted a hero, a messiah to come and save them. They didn’t necessarily want to participate in that salvation because they didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way they lived their lives or criticized the way others didn’t measure up to their standards.
Today, John points out that God, that Jesus from the beginning has an uphill climb. He’s born in a manger. Sure, his birth is heralded by angels, the angels declare his miraculous birth to those who are already living on the outskirts of society, the shepherds.
We’re told “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (Jn 1:10-11)
And this brings me to a phrase that I’ve been contemplating this week: “In the world but not of the world”.
It’s a phrase that is used to describe those of us who are followers of Jesus. Those of us who are Christians.
And I think it’s one we easily forget as we are surrounded by the pressures of the world to conform to the world in which we live. Because if we are not of the world, then how can we interact with it? If we are not of the world, then why world the world even listen to us?
And I think this is where I get myself stuck. The not so nice reversal of the phrase “In the world but not of the world” is “so heavenly minded that we’re not of any earthly good.”
But, I think it comes down to choosing the God we will worship.
Those who are focused in the world and of the world, without any thought of God and what God contributes to us and our lives are truly children of the earth. They will be led astray by any and every influence of the world. We can see this in the way money has truly become a god in the lives of most people. Not just the needed money to pay the bills, but allowing our money to speak on our behalf and to dictate to us what the priorities will be – profit above all else.
We can see this in the US President – elect whose family is ‘selling’ his time to those willing to pay at least $1 million dollars for an audience and photo op with the President – elect.
We can see this in the ways in which big business ‘purchases’ favours from government representatives, calling it ‘donations.’ We can see this when we want to know how electing this person instead of that person will give us this benefit or that position.
Instead of relying upon God, we, once more in human history, have come to rely upon money. We have put God on the shelf, next to that darned elf, and we’re waiting for whatever miracles God will create while we continue to focus on the loose change in our pockets.
At the same time, we wish the messiah were more like Superman, swooping in to save humanity, hiding amongst us in plain sight, and delivering salvation before we’re aware that we need saving.
Instead, we find a baby in a manger, we find the creator of the universe being born into the world, growing up scraping his knee, climbing trees, and exploring what he himself has created at the beginning of time.
We find that we are active participants in the salvation of our lives as we accept he love of God, as we confess the sins that keep us from that love, and accept God’s absolution of those sins.
When we remember that everything we have is from God, and that all we are asked to give to God is a portion of what God gives to us, then, even the Lord’s Prayer is able to remind us of our constant reliance upon God for all that is needed for all aspects of our lives, from a roof over our head, to food on the table, to God in our lives, directing and guiding always.
And that with that assurance in our lives, we can then focus on those who continue to walk in darkness, to teach them to look to the light, to walk in the light, to be a part of the light of the world. After all, if we pray for change, we need to expect to wake up next to a shovel, as a Facebook post proclaims.
And, John speaks to this, today. Not necessarily naming money as the God who has captured societies attention, today, although, this doesn’t speak for all, but rather for most society.
Those of us who are ‘in the world but not of the world’, we look to the light of the world born in a manger, we look to the light of God that has come into the world, against all logic, in order to teach us to love.
Where Superman comes to save us from certain disaster, and in between hides behind a journalism career and a pair of glasses, Jesus comes to teach us to love God, to love each other to love as we are loved by God.
If you want to look into the eyes of true love, to look into the eyes of a newborn who knows nothing but love. They know only of the love of family, of God, of those who care for the newborn. The same is true for Jesus, for the Messiah, for Christ.
Jesus is born into the world, God is made manifest in our lives, today, as well as in the manger in Bethlehem over 2 000 years ago. He’s born to give God’s light to a world in darkness, a world so caught up with keeping the laws that they are unable to keep the law.
But today, today “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Today, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn1:14)
Today, God’s love radiates like the light of God from this one child who has so much to give, so much to teach, not just today, but every day, for the length of our lives, as we learn once more to be in the world, but not of the world. As we learn to be God’s children and care for God’s creation.
So, today, I would encourage us to look, once again, to the light of God, born into the world, found in the manger, in Bethlehem.
Today, I hope that we can look beyond the petty, earthly concerns of the world, and share the love of God with all in need, with all who are still surrounded by the darkness focusing on any God other than the one true God, creator or heaven and earth, as God’s light shines in the world for all to see.