SERMON: 1Christmas c 12 30 2018
We have basked in the warm glow of Christmas, our delight and the joy at the birth of Jesus, for nearly a week. That warm and comfortable feeling now gives way today to the utter awe experienced at hearing the opening verses of John's Gospel.
We hear these lines and we realize, once again, "OK, it was a baby born, and isn't that wonderful and hopeful and, actually kind of ordinary?" But now: here's the creation. The entire universe being formed. And Jesus, this newborn, is not only present, he is responsible for this amazing and phenomenal feat.
At Christmas we encountered Jesus as a baby, of course. In the course of the Gospel stories we get to know him a little bit. But today we are informed of a role that Jesus played as co-creator of the universe. This puts him in a very different light than that mellow glow as he lay in the manger.
It is not really necessary for us to get our heads completely around this idea of Jesus being the co-creator of the universe. But the language is kind of overpowering, as one might expect of anything involving so astonishing a feat.
But truly, when we think about it, we're mostly concerned about things a little closer to home than the creation of the universe and all the cosmic powers of Jesus. Let's just not forget that he had them.
One of the essential reasons for this seeming indifference to the cosmic aspect is that we keep pretty busy managing our own lives. I say managing our lives but what I really mean is we spend a lot of our time trying to live our lives and understand, now and again, where we fit. The experience we had earlier this week at Christmas and the Gospel for today both help anchor us as being creations and children of God.
That Jesus was part of the creation as well as our very own creation is just one of the amazing ways that Christians see him.
By understanding that Jesus was a co-creator of the universe as well as the author of our own existence as well as a baby in a manger two thousand years ago pretty much qualifies him as the agent of everything, the co-eternal member of the Holy Trinity. His capacities are endless, his mighty deeds--not to mention mundane ones--unnumbered.
But here's something to consider as we conclude this year and enter into two thousand nineteen: our savior is not reserving that power, that generosity of saving us, only for the end of our days and the judgment promised in the Bible. In fact Jesus' saving grace is available to us 24 hours every day, full stop. All. The. Time.
I do not stand before you asserting you need it that often, only that it is available. This savior, Jesus, whom God named Emmanuel, meaning God is with Us, can help us live more fulfilling lives. Jesus can do this if we get clear on our own need for confession, repentance and absolution.
In a few minutes we will reach the portion of the service known as the Confession. In one way or another we will say that we have sinned, that is we are separated from God. Sometimes by actions, sometimes by inaction. The point is we have left God out of our lives in our decisions and our actions and this has led us to make mistakes. We acknowledge this and ask to be forgiven.
I would like you to know that every time I stand before you and offer absolution I want to say, "This is exactly what we are supposed to be doing. No one here is unique. No one here is pure. We need this to straighten out the disorder in our lives." So now I have said it.
What I think all this means is that God wants to be in the closest possible relation with us. It is for this reason, in part, that people like me are ordained, to make clear that God loves us so much, wants us to be engaged spiritually and committed to loving God and loving our neighbor. And the way we achieve that is by confessing our sins and straightening up our respective acts.
If you're still with me, consider this. If we carry around with us the burdens of all our poor decisions we get distracted by them. We can't make good decisions because we're focusing on our mistakes. But if we clear away those mistakes and believe we've been forgiven, our vision and judgment are suddenly working again and we can avoid more mistakes. And what better time to do this than just before New Year's?
We're going to take a couple of minutes just before the confession today and make that time available for being reflective before we actually recite the confession. The confession is a prayer in which we admit what we've done, assert we regret our misdeeds and assert our repentence, that is, our intention to not be repeat offenders. So I encourage you in the privacy of your thoughts to be specific about what you've done that needs confessing and how you'd like to change yourself so this kind of thing doesn't happen again. It is in being clear both about what's being admitted and what is hoped to be avoided that we can actually obtain spiritual help.
After all, we're asking God for help and we believe, given the creation-focused opening of our Gospel, that God can do anything. So let's remember that we are giving up on self-reliance in this confession; we are turning to a source that is eternal, that brings light to dark places, like our sad misdeeds, that the light is sufficient to enlighten everyone and that it gives us the power to become children of God.
This cosmic power is given the name of Jesus in our faith. It is the literal manifestation of God's will in the world. And we believe it is available to us.
Let us give ourselves freedom this year to get out from under the things that weigh us down in our lives, in our consciences. Admit, repent and obtain absolution.
Emmanuel! God is with us and God loves us! We have the support of the Almighty as we set out to draw near in faith and make 2019 a holy new year. Amen
A sermon preached Dec. 30, 2018 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie NY by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector