First Sunday after Christmas Day
December 26, 2004
The Gospel: John 1:1-18
Sermon: "In the Beginning Love"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
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. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
In The Beginning Love
First Sunday after Christmas Day - December 26, 2004
For just a few moments I invite us to think about the gifts we have received. We probably received gifts from our family this morning. We probably opened a few gifts from our friends. All of these gifts have one thing in common. They were given because the giver cared about you and I. This morning's lesson from John is also about a gift. However, this gift has been with us from the beginning of time. This gift is part of a series of gifts that are woven intricately together. They are like a Persian rug. The colors are rich. The design is very intricate and detailed. In fact, the design is almost perfect, but not quite. Bear with me for just a minute and allow me to describe the intricacies of these gifts.
The Gospel of John begins with the words "in the beginning". Immediately we should think of another book that starts with these words, the book of Genesis. The Gospel of John then makes a remarkable claim that the Word was with God in the beginning and that the Word is God. We understand the term Word to mean, Jesus Christ. The implication then is that Jesus was with God and the Holy Spirit from the beginning of creation. In fact, the church understands and teaches that God existed as father, Son and Holy Spirit forever, from before time. Already, we see the beginning of the intricate pattern. Jesus is a constant piece of the pattern of creation.
Now, we begin to see the context of the gift. The first gift we see in this intricate pattern is the gift of life. God creates life. The Holy Spirit and Jesus, the Son, are part of that life just as they are part of all creation. In that life God gives another gift. To human beings, to you and I, God gives the gift of free will. God gives us the ability to move within the pattern. We have the ability to choose to love and follow God or not to. We have the ability to love one another or not to. We have the incredible opportunity to be a richer part of God's intricate pattern by choosing to follow and love God. However, as we have read the story many times we did not choose to follow God and participate in the richness of the pattern to our fullest extent. That is the risk of giving anyone or anything free will. That is also why free will is such an incredible gift.
So, right now we see that we have been given two extraordinary gifts, life and free will. They are intricately woven into God's pattern of the universe. These gifts might seem to be enough. However, there is one more really major gift. This gift sets the stage for a major part of God's pattern. See, we want to follow God. We really do, but we have a difficult time. We really struggle with following God with all of our heart, our mind and our strength. We try, but we can't succeed on our own. So, God does something phenomenal. God gets into the pattern in a way that shows the depth and breadth of unconditional love. God becomes human. Today we celebrate the day when God is born into the world just like we were born into the world. We see Jesus as a little helpless baby. For his nutrition and care, his clothing and other physical needs he is totally dependent on the kindness and love of fellow human beings. Through becoming human, God in Christ, will do what we can not do on our own. Jesus will establish a right relationship between God and God's creation. Emmanuel is with us. Furthermore, Emmanuel saves us because we can not save ourselves. God offers God's own self for our own sins out of love.
So, today, we celebrate the gifts that God has given us. We celebrate the gift of life, the gift of free will, and the gift of the Son. All of these gifts are woven together as one intricate design of love. This love has been part of God's design from the beginning. My prayer is for all of us to have a Christmas full of love, the love of God in Christ.