The Word and the Light
SERMON: 1 Christmas A 12 29 19
The use of the term Word to describe the co-eternal second member of the Christian Trinity is only the first thing that needs explanation and exploration with today's Gospel. Here we are four days after Christmas and we want to know--again, just like every other year--what is going on?
The manner in which John presents Jesus coming into the world is intended to do a few things. Three, actually, that appear to be pretty obvious. One is that is causes us to consider why the truth of God would be contained in a Word, or the Word, rather than something animated. Why not talk about the baby Jesus first?
Second is the use of big ideas like Word and Light to characterize this birth.
Third is to use language that affects people in surprising ways: here we are talking about a baby and considering the comfort and safety of light and the danger and dread of dark. I would say it's pretty persuasive.
To connect a newborn with the establishment of creation is a bit of a leap. Yet here we are in the stable, looking into the manger, cooing over Baby Jesus and realizing, "This is the one." That light would emanate from such a tiny being, that truth would also flow from those lips, amazes us.
Yet we know that Jesus grew into his heritage as the Son of God and taught us, taught all the world, how to become children of God.
This light we have come to know as Jesus has given us the courage to be his followers, perhaps like his cousin John was inspired to foretell his coming. John did so not with expectation of credit or claim of glory, but because he was called from the moment he leapt in his mother's womb.
These wonderful stories, including John's pre-natal enthusiasm for his cousin as the Messiah, are reflected in our own faith and traditions today. We appreciate how desperate the need for God to dwell among the people was felt back then; we share that sense today and ever have. Because without a glimpse of how to live life on God's terms according to God's will, we are fairly out of luck and hopeless.
With that information, conveyed over the millennia by Jesus and his followers, we have a grasp and we have a chance to make better choices, choices that prepare us fitting for the children of God.
If ever we lose sight of these significant prospects we need only turn to today's psalm, Psalm 147. It reminds us of the place of Jesus in the Trinitarian order and of the greatness of God's plan, implemented by Jesus the Savior:
God gathers the exiles and heals the brokenhearted; God counts the stars and knows their names; there is no limit to God's wisdom; God lifts up the lowly but casts the wicked to the ground; God makes grass grow to feed herds; God honors those who follow and await God's favor; God establishes peace.
This is but a sampling of what the psalmist wrote of the Almighty in the days before Jesus came to earth. Isaiah, likewise, encourages us to sharpen our vision of God and to appreciate all God has done and will do for us. Isaiah declares that God has changed him inwardly and outwardly, by clothing him in the garments of salvation and covering him with the robe of righteousness. Reading these lines, who could yearn for earthly possessions or even fine robes and jewels? What could be finer than those garments and robes?
If we missed the message of garments and robes, Isaiah's bride and bridegroom metaphor fills in the gaps by comparing God's followers with those endowed with the joy and love and confidence of newlyweds.
In this way we are blessed every year, blessed anew with another Gospel rendition of the nativity to reflect upon. But none braces us so well as John's Gospel, full of the Word and Light, Truth and Faith.
A sermon preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie NY on the First Sunday After Christmas, Dec. 29, 2019, by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector