John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 1:2 He was in the beginning with God; 1:3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 1:7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 1:8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 1:9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 1:11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 1:15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) 1:16 And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
We don’t seem to recognize this gospel reading to be a Christmas story. It does not seem to have all of the necessary details. I mean where is the manger? Where is the baby? Where are Mary and Joseph? What about the angels, and the star? Where are the shepherds? Where are the wise men? There is nothing here which makes us recognize this story as a Christmas story, but maybe this is just the best Christmas story of all!
Most of you probably know who I am. You would recognize me if I was walking down the street, in a bank, or a store. Most of you can recognize your families, and would be able to pick them out of a crowd at say a football game, or a basketball game, or at the mall. Most of us probably do not remember the first time we looked at our mothers and fathers and knew who they were. Babies as young as a few months can recognize their parent’s faces. It is amazing how soon babies recognize the faces of those who love them. Baby ducks can also recognize their mother after seeing her and hearing her. When ducklings hatch, they immediately look around for something to follow. Usually the first thing they see is their mother. They will then follow their mother and she will teach them all they need to know to be grown up ducks. However if the mother duck happens to be away from the nest when the ducks hatch, they will still look for the first thing they see. And if a cat walks by the nest, the little ducks will follow the cat. Now this is not very good, because the cat will not be a good mother duck. The cat can not teach the ducklings how to find food, how to fly, or where to fly in the winter. And if the real mother duck showed up, then the ducklings may not recognize her. We need to recognize who we belong to, or who’s we are. God created the world and everything in it. Genesis 1:1-3 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God said the word, and “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Everything that was created was created by God through Love. Everyone did not recognize Jesus when he came to earth, John says “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.” Even today people do not recognize him, but “to those who receive him”. How is it we receive him? How is it we receive the Word? The word used here for receive can mean either to take, or to receive. One, to take implies and action, and the other to receive implies some passivity. I do not have to do anything usually to receive a gift. And in order to receive a word, all I have to do is listen. Now I suppose it is possible to take a word, but usually we only get words from someone when they are ready to speak, so thus we are on the receiving end. And through our passivity of receiving this word, we also receive the power to become children of God. All of creation was passive in the creation, and even Jesus in his incarnation was passive, he had no control over his human birth, just as none of us had any control over our human birth. We were born without doing anything, it was a passive moment in our lives, now I am sure our mothers were not passive, but there was nothing we could do to keep from being born. Yet while everything in creation was passive, and had no control over being created, this creation can evoke responses. We can believe the Word about God’s intimate involvement in creation and the eternal origins of Jesus or not believe it. If we truly believe that we are to proclaim Jesus Christ to each other and to all the world, then we need to understand our every action is making known what God has done, is doing and promises to do. And this proclamation, the proclamation that God loves us can be accepted or denied. However, it is not our belief that makes God love us, and if someone where to say they do not believe, that does not undo the love that God has for all of us. The question is not whether we love God, but the question is do we believe that God has, is and will always love us, and live as children of God, accepting the power to become inheritors of the Kingdom. “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” as the Epistle to the Ephesians says. God loves us and this is a gift freely given, we can either recognize the hope we have, or not. Even if we are following the wrong mother, as the ducklings can, God still loves us, and there is always hope.
The epilogue of John is the most wonderful Christmas story, because it does not tell us about the baby in the manger, it does not tells us about the birth of Jesus, yet it is a confession of faith in who Jesus is. This is a Christmas story that is not about Jesus, it is a story of God. Christmas is more than the story of shepherds being created by angels. Christmas is more than the story of wise men coming from the east. Christmas is more than a story about a carpenter and his betrothed. Christmas is even more than the story of a baby in a manger. Christmas is a time when we can see concretely who God is and what God has done for us. God, the almighty, the all-powerful, who created everything that exists, is far beyond our understanding and comprehension. This same God came to earth. God came to us, as a human being in human flesh. This is God’s love in action. As John says later in chapter 3 of his gospel “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” More than all the pageantry of the nativity scene Christmas is a concrete demonstration of God’s love for all of humanity. Christmas is a concrete expression of God’s love for you and me.
We can live in the promise and Hope of Advent in Christmas and throughout the years because Christmas is not only a day in the past, it is not only a baby in a manger. Through the face of the infant in the manger we see the outpouring of God’s love for all humanity. God created Light, and the light over came the darkness. Jesus existed before the creation of the world. In some mysterious and unexplainable way, Jesus was involved in the creation of the world. This divine power was part of creating the universe comes to us as a human being. John says it very simply, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Philippians 2:7-8 it says “but (Christ) emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Christmas is not just a day, but is a reminder to us of the love that God has for us. God came to earth to humble himself to redeem us to a right relationship with himself. Recognize who’s you are and the gift freely given to you. Live in the Faith, Hope, and Love given to us by God, and live life always in Christmas, the concrete expression of God’s love for us, in the out pouring of love in the face of the infant. Hope recognized in the face of an infant, in the face of Jesus. Amen.