Christmas I Sermon 2020

By Rev. Robert Shearer
Christmas I • December 27, 2020
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 • Psalm 147 • Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7 • John 1:1-18

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“In the beginning was the Word.” So begins the Gospel of John—very similar to the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a reflection of the beginning of the Book of Genesis which says, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

So both opening verses are about creation, the beginning of all things, the Big Bang, if you will. But how does the act of creation work? What is the mechanism, so to speak, by which something gets created?

In both Genesis and John, it is speaking that generates creation. It is through speaking, through the Word, that something comes into being. It is a word—the Word—that creates.

You can see this in real life. For the most part, we are in the middle of things. As a small child, around the ages of one or two, we begin to notice that we are a somebody, someone different from Mommy and Daddy. And we notice that all that surrounds us was there before we were. In a world of “beginning, middle, and end,” we show up in the middle of things.

Later, we notice that things really do end. A birthday party that was such fun ends, and we are aware of loss—losing the fun, and the birthday, and the party. We were in the middle, and then it was over and we were at the end.

How about the beginning? Well, someone spoke. They said, “We should have a birthday party. Let’s do it!” Someone speaks the Word. Before any real thing exists, the thought, the idea, the possibility has to be born. And that requires the Word. It is speaking that generates being, and out of the being that has been generated, action turns the possibility into reality.

Certainly this is true of this parish church of ours. 150 years ago, this church did not exist. The town was just a country retreat for people living in New York. Eventually a minister from the City who summered here thought to himself, “We should have services in Fort Lee.” So he invited a few people into his living room on a Sunday morning, and the church became a reality. But first, it started with his word, with the possibility spoken to others—just an idea at first, but then made concrete by inviting people to his living room services.

John continues, “… and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He is indicating that words become independent of their speaker. Our word issues forth from our mouths, and once spoken, they seem to have an independent life, separate from the speaker. We all know the experience of having said something unfortunate—once spoken, we cannot call the words back. And we know the independent power of speaking something that empowers or comforts another—it seems to accomplish its work all by itself, once we speak it.

So it is with God. The Word, John says, was “with God,” that is, separate and independent of God. And yet that word was God’s expression and in a real sense “the Word was God.”

All this is interesting—our words create possibilities and God’s Word does the same. Both for God and for us, we are able to create through language, by speaking a possibility, by bringing something into being that was not there before we spoke.

What is amazing to me is what John says next: “…the Word became flesh and lived among us.” This Word that God spoke in creating everything that exists, this Word came into flesh and blood, Jesus. And he lived in our midst—the Greek word at its root means “he set up his tent among us.”

So what? This is always a great question. So what difference does this make? So what does it mean for you and me?

Since we have been adopted into God’s household and made heirs of him; since we have put on Christ and become his successors in doing powerful things; since we no longer have to labor as victims of our circumstances—since all this, we are powerful beyond any of our expectations.

Thanks be to God who has made us his children and endowed us with the power of the Word.