The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


  
Sermon  January 3, 2016
Scripture Reading: John 1:1-18




The Rev. Robert Vodra

 

     Merry Christmas.  OK, it is January 3, is anyone else over Christmas?  I always feel like it is a bit anticlimactic.  We have Advent, 4 Sundays of preparing for Christmas.  Christmas Eve is always nice, we get up on Christmas morning, open presents, eat a big breakfast, maybe play some games, spend some good family time.  Then, for us, it typically involves going to family.  Keri and I made a decision early on in our marriage that we needed to have our own traditions, and one of those would involve spending Christmas Day in our house, where ever that was.  We would be glad to visit parents after Christmas, or even before, but the day of Christmas we would be in our house.  We did bend this rule a few times, driving up to 14 hours on Christmas day to spend the next evening with family, but I believe every Christmas morning we have at least woken up in our own bed.  Since we had children, we have always spent the whole Christmas day at our house, save the traveling for after Christmas if we want to, or need to travel.

 

     As the years go by, after Christmas I am ready to take down the tree, put our furniture back where it was, send the kids back to school, and get on with life.  I think a lot of this has to do with the build up to Christmas.  Itís the most wonderful time of the year.  Well yes, Christmas is nice, but now we have had our New Yearís celebrations, itís over.  Collinís birthday is January 9, so have to get ready for that, Keriís is at the end of the month, then Valentineís day and my birthday. 


     But in the church we tend to stretch out holidays.  This is the second Sunday of Christmas.  On December 24 we celebrate Christmas.  For those of you who are wondering, yes, we know that December 24 is not Christmas.  It is not exactly clear how this became the traditional Christmas service, but most think that it came about because for strict Catholics Christmas is a day that they must go to mass.  In order to get it in, churches started to offer a midnight mass, then those moved earlier and earlier in the evening.  Still get that Christmas service in, but just do it a bit earlier.  And this fits in well with America today.  Christmas, for many, is a family holiday.  So we, in the church, set the scene and then get out of the way so families can celebrate the holiday in their own way.
 

     And there is a value to this.  We reach many people on Christmas Eve.  If you were here that night, there may have been a few faces in the congregation that were not familiar to you.  Perhaps you even brought one of two of those people to church.  And it was a really nice service, at least I thought so.  Last Sunday, you were nice enough to give me the Sunday off, so I was able to travel to see family myself.  Thank you.  Note for any of you that end up working on the call for the next minister, this really is a great benefit.  But then I come back, New Years has passed, many of you have already taken down the tree, or at least thought about it.  Presents are unwrapped, being used or put away until you need them.  If you are a big reader, perhaps you have already read at least one of the books you got. 

     And we, as a church, are still supposed to be celebrating.  And as I thought about this Sunday several weeks ago, I thought that this passage from the book of John would be perfect.  We are still in the Christmas season, and I am sure that I could talk about darkness in the world, and the light not being overtaken by the darkness.  Perhaps you have heard that sermon preached before.  It is a good sermon, and fits well with this time of much darkness in the world.  Or, I could go a bit deeper, and compare John 1 and Genesis 1.  The idea that John is suggesting the Birth of Jesus is really a new start to the world. 

     But reading the scripture again, verse 18 was what jumped out at me.  ďNo one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Fatherís heart, who has made him known.Ē What I appreciate about this verse is its stark honesty. No one has ever seen God. No kidding. We may want to, desire to, crave to, yet we cannot. And this seems never more apparent than during the times of our greatest need. Whether caused by illness, death, job loss, depression, loneliness, a sense of disconnection, or any of a manifold of other challenges this life entails, in times of great struggle we seem keenly, even cruelly aware that we are simply not able to see God.

     And that is pretty depressing.  Because we are human, we can only think in terms that make sense to us.  Is God Male or Female?  The only answer that makes any sense to me is yes and no.  Although there is more fluidity in those terms today than even 10-15 years ago, most people still identify as male or female, it is what we know, and one way in which we identify.  So yes, God fully understands what is means to be a man, and also fully understands what it means to be a woman, both more than any of us can, and yet I donít believe we can put God into a box by either of those categories.  Is God light skinned or dark skinned?  Again, yes and no.  I believe that God fully understands what it is like to have light skin and dark skin, and even how the color of oneís skin effects how others treat them, but God is not confined by those categories.  And the same goes on for any human made distinctions, good academically or learning disabled, jock or not athletic, young or old. 

     So God can fully understand us, yet we cannot fully understand God.  But because of our limitations, God becomes accessible to us through Jesus.   We see Jesus as fully human, a middle eastern Man living about 2000 years ago.  We can get our mind around that.  And because we have seen God in Jesus, we are emboldened both to live with hope as well as share with others the hope that is within us.  Christmas reminds us of Godís decision to become one of us, to take on our lot and our life that we might have hope, and to share our mortal life that we might enjoy Godís eternal life. This is not merely a season or celebration; it is a promise that requires our active participation every day of the year.

     It is through God becoming human that simultaneously glorifies human flesh and endeavors. Our lives matter to God. Our welfare is of tremendous importance to the God. There is no worry too small, nor challenge too great, that God is not eager to share it with us. Indeed, God is eager to equip and empower us to share our worries and challenges, as well as our joys and hopes, with each other. As because of Godís decision to come to us in a form we recognize, we are empowered to reach out to those around us.

     Although Christmas is stretched before the holidays by consumer world, and then shut down quickly by the rise of New Years as a significant holiday, we are a Christmas people and an Easter people.  Christmas does not happen in one day, or 12 days, or 4 weeks.  It is so much more than a celebration of the birth of Christ, or Santa Clause, or Christmas trees and lights.  It is a sign that God cares so much about us, each one of us, that God was willing to come onto earth in a form that we could understand.  And more than a sign, but a way of being called to live.   It is a way in which we can understand a tiny bit of who God is.

     One disappointment I have in the Bible is that we know almost nothing of the time between Jesus as a tiny baby, and Jesus as a 30 year old man.  There is one story of him in Jerusalem when he was about 12, but between now, and when we remember his baptism next week, I encourage you to think about all the things that Jesus experienced, just as we have all experienced when we were growing up.  The times we have made our parents proud, and the times we had disappointed them.  The times we were chosen last for the team, and the time we scored the winning goal.  The fun things we did with our closest friends, and the friends who deserted us when we needed someone to talk to.  Getting to really know a relative, and having a relative die.  By God becoming human in the form of Jesus, we know that God experienced all these things.  We do see bits of this in his later stories, but we jump about 30 years in the next week, and I can only imagine the good and bad things that happened to him during this time. 

     Although I know that God knows all those things better than any of us, I find in Jesus, and therefore in God, a God who knows exactly what it feels like when I feel my best, and also knows exactly how it feels when I feel my worst.  And therefore I know that I can tell God when I am feeling my best, and also tell God when I am at a low point in my life.  Although I donít hear God saying ďYes, I know how you feelĒ I know that God does know exactly how I feel. 

     It is important to have a God who knows all those things.  And God chose to become human so that we could both understand a bit of God, and understand that God knows us fully.  Although Christmas is almost over, the trees will soon come down, if they are not already, and the lights will at least be shut off, to be taken down when the snow melts.  I hope you will remember that we are a Christmas people, God became human, and although we have never seen God, it is through Jesus, God coming to earth to live with us, that we understand a bit of who God is. 

Amen. 


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