Christmas Day Reflections 12-25-15

 John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 

At last night’st worship we heard the Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ birth. Luke is a careful storyteller; he says enough but not too much. His story is earthy, particular, and political. We see the results of tyranny and oppression in the land. Dorothee Soelle once observed, “the boot of the empire crushes everything in its way in the narrative from Bethlehem to Golgotha.”

Luke describes the hectic scene of arriving in Bethlehem  - a young mom went into labor – no room in the inn – oh my goodness, go in there - she had the baby and laid him in a manger hopefully with fresh hay because  - "ick" to cow slobber.  Whew! That was close.  Then our poor couple has barely taken a breath when a band of what ruffians arrive – think of poor Joseph: what could he do?? – but it turns out they are shepherds from the field– still a little punch-drunk from the angel sighting – who have rushed to see this thing that had happened.  Then they left and Mary pondered and we all slept in heavenly peace.

So we get here this morning recovering from all that excitement.  This is where we take a deep breath and start our new life with the new baby and think about what that all means. What it all means….

 With a burst of light we are outside of time looking at galaxies, stars and swirling creation.  In a fairly audacious move, the gospel writer of John uses the beginning words of the beginning book of the Bible...In the beginning God said let there be light… In the beginning God’s Word brought light….and not a single thing was created without the Word.

No. This is not Luke's baby wrapped tightly and placed in a crib. The first chapter of John’s gospel is elegant and poetic. …No infant; no whiff of cow stall or bed of hay, nor any sign of social unrest or political intrigue. No. This is order and beauty; this is testimony to the light, life, and living Word of God. It is swirling dance and music that is timeless and universal that existed before all things.

The Word became flesh.  We are back to the amazing realization that the almighty God became vulnerable as a human….and the most vulnerable of humans, a baby.

All that cosmic power squeezed into an itty-bitty living space call human flesh.

 Lutheran preacher Edward Markquart said: This means that God became Jesus who was a little baby, wet his diapers, messed his pants, burped, upchucked, cried, and whined in the synagogue at age two, and later drove his parents crazy during the worship services. Jesus was a true, authentic, real human being. 

This Bible passage from the Christmas gospel of John reaches from beyond the universe to ask “Where is God most present?  And the answer:  In the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.  

Sometimes that is hard to wrap our heads around. So often we can feel the glorious presence of God in something we experience like a sunset or a flower or the Milky Way galaxy…something that causes you to go “ahhh”.  In this text from John, that glorious presence of God is most clearly seen in the flesh of Jesus Christ.  It is in Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation, teachings, miracles, parables, death and resurrection…in all that fleshly living…. where the light of God most clearly shines.  

We look at the light of God shining in Jesus and our hearts go “ooh and ah.” The beauty of God is so beautiful in the flesh, in the humanity of Jesus.  This text that starts so far away from us ends so very close to us.

Two more comments:
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. 

That is an important truth for these hard times: international terrorism, hatred, violence, injustice… and personal darkness like the empty chair at the table, the one dying with cancer, the one lost to mental illness.  That phrase is a powerful reminder of what this God-in-flesh has done for us.

And then, the word became flesh and lived…dwelt…. the word actually points toward tented with us like the desert wanderers. We are not alone. God has lived among us in the flesh and knows what it is to be frail human mortal flesh. 

I think each of us should just sit with this text throughout today and let it soak into lives, into our darkness. 

Listen to it with your heart.

Glory to God! Amen

Thoughts shared at Christmas Day service.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245