Christmas Day December 25, 2011
Light, Life, and the Incarnation The Rev. Dr. Howard J. Hess
I. Introduction. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The late night and early morning excitement of Christmas Eve and sunrise gift-giving has passed. We are left with the stillness of Christmas Day itself. In the stillness we read today’s beautiful Prologue from The Gospel of John. It is a wonderful portion of Scripture, singular in its depiction of Christ as The Logos, the light of the world. The first chapter of John invites us to see Christ differently than each of the other three canonical gospels. There is no birth story in John, only the Prologue followed immediately by the declarations of John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, and his selection of his first disciples. There is a reason why John leaves out the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, and even King Herod. This reason is integral to the way John wants to communicate the Gospel.
II. In the beginning. You see, it is not that John doesn’t know the many details of Jesus’ life. Remember, John is referred to as “the disciple who Jesus loved.” And it was John whom Jesus asked to watch over his mother after his death. The reason that John begins with the Prologue is to teach us that Jesus Christ the Logos, which in Greek means The Word, did not begin his active existence on Christmas morning. John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. “ We see clearly that John comprehends that Jesus Christ, the Logos, has always been. As the early Christians asserted: “There has never been a time when Jesus was not.”
We see here that Jesus has existed co-eternally with God and thus has never been limited by time or chronos, as we human beings understand time. There is no past, present, or future for Jesus Christ – only the eternal now. I believe that this is what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”
However, our field of vision best comprehends and emphasizes the thirty-three year period that Jesus lived here on earth. Jesus’ existence prior to and following that brief life is much harder for us to imagine. Consequently, we tend to diminish Christ and fit him into what we know – our human lives -- but are less clear about how we can be like him in eternity, beyond time as we know it. John understands this temptation. He himself had been a hot-headed young man who pressed Jesus to make him prime minister in his earthly kingdom. But as John lived with Christ and learned from him, he became clear that Christ was so much more than he originally understood. Rather than making Jesus in his image, John committed to changing to become more like Christ. It is said that when John was very old, he was carried into the church services and could hardly speak. But in each service he would attempt to rise off of his stretcher and say, “Love one another.” His followers asked him why he repeated that so often, and his answer was that he was repeating what our Lord said. When we listen to John’s perspective, we are encouraged to enter the space where we see that our brief time in this life is just a small speck of what life with Christ will be like beyond our earthly time. Our life decisions, life goals, and even our attachment to life’s richness, should be tempered by the realization that our home here is temporary and brief.
III. There is so much more in the Prologue that we could focus upon today. We could consider the multiple meanings of the term Logos –logic, wisdom, or even the coherent force that binds the creative world together. But perhaps most important is that the Logos, Christ, was an active agent in creation. John wrote, “All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.” Further he writes, “What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people.” We think very little about the idea that Christ was God’s agent in the creation of the universe. He was there when the light was separated from the darkness, and it was that light that created life. So the fact that Christ came a second time to redeem that which he created makes all the sense in the world. In Christ creation and redemption are closely linked.
Our challenge in comprehending the full mission of Jesus Christ, the Logos, is to realize that we can become more like him. Theologians call that “sanctification.” We are called upon to co-create with him and participate with him in redeeming that which is lost in this world. Each of us has built within us the capacity to create beauty and therefore to overcome darkness. The arrangements of flowers on this chancel attest to the creative beauty of what we can create; the music sung in this church is yet another. The way in which we love each other, walk through crises with one another, sit and watch and wait together are other examples of co-creating with Christ. Our charge this morning is not to leave the creating to Christ or even to others who we think are more Christ-like. We are to be Christ’s eyes, mouth, hands, and feet in this world. We are co-creating a new world with him and have only begun to scratch the surface of what our co-creative activities with Christ can be.
III. Conclusion. So there we are. John takes us to the same conclusion as Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but along a slightly different road. Today The Word is with us. Jesus Christ who has created us, redeemed us, and renewed us, has come to dwell within and between us. Let it be our intention to become co-creators with Christ in new, fresh, and powerful ways. Minister to others in his name, go where he directs us to go, and place all of our resources – financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual, into the effort of bringing Christ’s light into a struggling world. Amen.