Thursday, December 22, 2011

John 1:1-14 - Christmas Eve Sermon - Incarnation


John 1:1-14
Incarnation
12-24-11

Last Spring I coached my first soccer team.  It was Dean’s Upward Soccer team from Fair Grove UMC’s program.  I had a blast coaching these little four and five year olds how to kick a ball, do a throw in, and how to get in there and attack.  It was a lot of fun because I have distinct memories of playing soccer at that age too.  But there is something I noticed, I’m not as young as I think I am.  As I ran the field with the team, trying to herd cats, or as I crouched on the sidelines at the bench to talk to the players, I was a little slow to get up.  My knees now make this grinding sound as I move from a catcher’s stance to standing straight up.  I know what you are thinking, just wait Jim, your only 34.

Last Wednesday we had Young and Restless at Loflin’s and gathered around the table were three people in recovery.  We had Dorcas who had just been a car accident and was healing from fractured ribs and sternum.  Across the table was Ronnie who walked in on a cane because of surgery on his femur and hips after falling.  Next to me was Pricilla who had fallen off the trailer during IMPACT Community and broken ribs and her collar bone.  We talked about being able to sleep, driving, and slow process of healing.

My grandmother will be coming to the parsonage tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with us.  She is in her mid-eighties and doesn’t walk very well. She is usually in a motorized wheelchair at the nursing home she lives in but when she visits us she uses a walker.  After knee and hip replacements and a couple of falls throughout the years she doesn’t move very well and any task, like moving to the table for dinner, is a two person operation.  Sometime last year my Mom came to visit and she had recently tweaked her knee.  It healed fine but the way she favored the other leg reminded me of how her mother moves and I said to her, “Mom, you are starting to walk like Gram.”  I got slugged in the arm for some reason.

Before our cooperate prayer during worship we are flooded with requests to pray for those people who have cancer and who have had surgery.  We are constantly reminded that our bodies have limitations and if you don’t think so, play outside with our all children one afternoon in the playground and you will be reminded that your body cannot do what it use to do.  That is the joy of getting old.  Our bodies have an expiration date. As we gain age we are reminded of that date especially as it gets closer.  Eventually for all of us our flesh fails us.  This body of flesh and bones trap us and we see no other way out.

I have always been captivated by the author of John’s gospel opening chapter.  It is beautiful poetry.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  That is simply one of the most beautiful and most theological statements ever.  The Greek word that John uses here for “word” is logos.  Now for the Greek language words can have meanings on top of meanings.  They can mean one thing but also have implications or significance beyond that meaning as well.  It would be like one of our unique and gentle southern phrases, “Bless her heart.”  Now when this is used it truly means that we would like to bestow a blessing on that person.  Okay, sorry, but usually it doesn’t mean they want to bestow a blessing.  In fact when that phrase is used we are calling that person out on being a little slow or just plain dumb.  It is a southern way of insulting someone without sounding like it.  It is like another person recently said, “If I say it with a smile, I’m not saying anything bad.”

I’m not suggesting that logos is God’s way of insulting us without us knowing but it goes beyond the meaning of ‘word.’  Its meaning is more like “the rational principle of the universe.”[1]  It means the fabric that holds the universe together.  It is the unseen link between all of creation and humanity.  “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.”  The Word, the Logos created everything, including us.  We are born from the Word and the Word is in us.  We carry the image of the Word in that fleshy muscle we call our heart and that unseen thing we call our soul.

But what does this Word do?   It loved what was created through him.  It looked down on this fragile pile of flesh and bones and saw something good, something lost, something seeking, something worth saving.  The Word looked into the world and loved it, loved it enough that he put on skin and bone, put on the limitations of a human body and “made his dwelling among us.”

Tonight is always a special night.  It is a time when we proclaim that the Word has come to earth.  We proclaim the incarnation.  God sent his only Son to come into this world.  We celebrate the babe in the manger and the chorus of angels that sing about this glorious moment.  Yet we also confess that when we think of God we think of something beyond flesh.  We think of something spiritual, up there, far away from the limitations of our own lives.  But we forget that today God came to earth and put on the very thing we hope to escape someday.

We are happy with our bodies as long as they do what they should do.  We are happy with our flesh as long as it works the way it is supposed to work. Yet we live in a fallen world and our sin soaked souls know that everything fleshy doesn’t last forever.  But it is while we are in this flesh that we can experience the one who put the same thing on for our sake.  In other worldviews gods did different things. The Greek gods would slip into human form and interact with humans.  This is not what our God did tonight.  Tonight God became human, became a person, became a real face, a real man with a specific name.  Jesus came to be with us.

We will come in contact with this flesh in a little bit as we take his body given for you and drink of his blood as a sign of the new covenant.  It is because God became flesh that we can celebrate our salvation.  Not that we can escape the realities of this world but the fact that we can meet the risen Lord who was born in a manger in the midst of our own reality.

Bishop Will Willimon summed it up best, “The incarnation – Christmas – should be a yearly reminder that our salvation is something that God devises, not something that we achieve.  What else does God have to do to tell us, “This is not about you, this is not about something you are supposed to think or feel or do.  This is about me, something that I give you”?  A virgin birth?  To say that Jesus was born is to say that Jesus was a human being.  To say that Jesus was born “of a virgin” is to say that he was God.  We could not climb up and lay hold of the greatness of God, so God climbed down and laid hold of us as we are.”[2]

Thanks be to God for making his dwelling among us in order for us to dwell one day with him.

And all God’s people said…Amen.


[1] Willimon, William. Pulpit Resource, Vol. 36, No. 4, Year A & B, p.55.
[2] Ibid. p.56.

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