December 26, 2021, The First Sunday after Christmas
The First Sunday after Christmas Day
December 26, 202
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin
Readings: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 147: 13-21; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18
From the Gospel according to John, “… And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have you noticed the striking differences in the accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ as told in the Gospels? Mark doesn’t mention it all. He jumps right in with Jesus’ baptism and ministry as an adult. No Norman Rockwell portrayals of a cute baby in a manger for Mark. No, for Mark, it is Jesus’ ministry that matters most, not the particulars of his birth.
Mathew and Luke offer what seem to be conflicting stories. Luke says there was a manger. Matthew doesn’t mention it. Matthew says there was a star while Luke leaves that detail out. Luke goes into great detail about shepherds encountering angels on a hillside while Matthew only mentions three Magi, three wise men, coming from the East.
And here’s another thing … Matthew and Luke mention sheep but no other animals present. (That throws all those Christmas Pageants for a loop, doesn’t it?) Yet, in spite of their different perspectives on the events of that Christmas long ago, they both agree that Jesus was born although they give no details about Mary’s labor or whether he was a quiet or screaming baby. No, those details aren’t important to Matthew and Luke. Their focus and desire is to bring us to the newborn Christ. He is what matters.
And then there’s John’s gospel. John hints at Christ’s birth only through a retelling of the creation story, the presence of God throughout the ages. The opening chapter of the Gospel according to John reminds us of the entire Book of Genesis and the experience of God by the Hebrew people. In the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament as we call it, God just happens. God shows up where, how, and when God desires to appear. And God always does so in the most unexpected, unimaginable ways. In a burning bush, a pillar of fire, in a quiet garden, on a mountain top and by a quiet stream. God just happens in scripture.
And throughout Hebrew history God, time and again, appeared in order to intervene, liberate, restore, punish, redeem, make whole again, and sent Prophets and Patriarchs and Matriarchs to guide the people and more. God remained a presence in the world, but God’s physical appearance was never truly known. In fact, no one had ever seen God … … That is until Bethlehem!
There, John tells us, the “Word was made flesh and lived among us.” Just as before, God came, God happened, but this time, beloved, God stayed. God stayed to walk with us, to laugh and grieve with us, and to teach and heal us. Ultimately, he died for us and then rose from the dead. “The Word became flesh” – flesh like us – in order to know and experience what it is like to be fully human while remaining fully divine. God of God, Light of Light as the Creeds affirm. Jesus – the Word of God made flesh like us – comes to live and die as one of us.
In that moment at Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, God acted in a way no one could ever imagine. And the reality is that for the Christian, this Word of God, this Jesus the Christ, still dwells among us to laugh, to cry, to walk, to heal, to forgive and redeem, to teach us to love with the depths of God’s love, and to raise us from the dead.
Like many of you, in my own journey of faith there have been times when a word of counsel spoken to me in love completely changed my path for the better. In many ways, the “Word made flesh” was dwelling in and through that person. And that eternal Word of God remains present in each of us who embrace the Christ and that Word urges us to do the same, to be present as Christ to this world.
On this hushed First Day after Christmas morning, let us pause and ponder the grace of those words, “The Word was made flesh and lived among us” and invite him to live in us once again so that we, also, may heal, teach, laugh, cry, walk, forgive, and love as God in Christ has loved you and me, loved us. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us” … and lives within us today. That is the continuing miracle and grace of Christmas according to John. John’s story draws us to God’s own self. John reveals that God and Christ are one. And thus, for John, the feast of Christmas goes beyond our redemption and beyond a way of life. It becomes a daily journey into the very redeeming heart of God forever.
Friends, “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” By God’s grace, may this be our experience as well not just on Christmas Day, but every day of our lives now and forever. Amen.