Merry Christmas to you!
This is the Third Day of Christmas, and I hope that somewhere along the line, in all of your festivities and travels and preparations and – for some – difficulties and sorrows, that you had an opportunity to read or hear and reflect on the Christmas story as told in Luke’s Gospel. You know, it the one that starts out: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered”…and then continues: “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” That narrative is chock full of vivid images, intriguing details that invite us to ponder and pray over the story of Jesus’ birth.
But now, our Gospel/final reading today is John’s very different telling of the Good News of our Savior’s birth, a theological account, which itself is full of beauty and mystery. In a very dense and concentrated way, John recalls the Creation story….way back in the opening lines of Genesis: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” God said, God spoke….God sang. This is not just the Lord dictating a shopping list or an instruction manual, but making a proclamation, giving a command, speaking a powerful word that blossoms into action. John embraces that energy of God’s speaking, and connects it to Jesus, the Christ. John refers to Christ as the WORD – not something written, not a page of the Bible, but an embodiment of God power in human form and flesh.
Take a moment to imagine what those first moments of creation must have been like. See in your minds’ eye, or maybe from a science film or TV show you’ve seen, the light and energy and immense power of the Big Bang, erupting from the darkness. Then picture that very same energy and light and power becoming compact, concentrated into a single point, a small intense globe containing all the reality and creativity of the universe. And then see that globe of light taking the shape of a human being, a baby who grows to be a man – Jesus. This is what John has in mind, and is trying to convey when he calls Christ the Word.
So what difference does this make to us? How is this reflection more than just an academic theological exercise? We live in an age when images are often more powerful than words. And when the truth of God seems to be reduced to printed text on a page, and we have somehow lost the key to unlocking and decoding that text in a way that is real and life-giving, then we need to work to make the images, the word-paintings come alive.
The truth of Christmas is that God took upon himself our human nature, our flesh and blood. The truth of Christmas is that the immense power and light and creative goodness of God that issued forth in the physical and spiritual universe is completely whole and present in Jesus. And that means that God’s power and light are always with us, always available to us, not disconnected, not far away, but here among us, in our midst, in our hearts and breath and sinews and blood. Ponder that a moment – that intense and powerful energy within you; how does that change you?
The more we allow this image of God’s creating energy, the Light of Christ, the powerful Word to live in us, the more we will be the fulfillment of God’s holy purpose, the glory of the Lord, God’s dream for us and for the whole world.
So, a blessed Christmas to you and those you love. Grace and truth and God’s powerful Word be with you always. Amen.
Victoria Geer McGrath
All Saints’ Church, Millington, NJ
First Sunday after Christmas
December 27, 2015