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CHRISTMAS DAY 2016
AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH (JN 1:14)
Even though there is no Christmas story in John's Gospel, let us imagine the author of the Fourth Gospel as our preacher here this Christmas Day. Through him we hear again the reasons for our continuing belief in Jesus. He tells us that love really matters, truth really matters, hope is not a delusion. God so loved the world (3:16) that he expressed that love for us personally as the Word Made Flesh, Jesus of Nazareth (1:14).
Christianity as The Way
Under God persons are what earthly existence is all about. Persons are the focus of existence. For what is power, what is money, what is social position if not to help persons be what they should be? We are sustained and developed by selfless love. And love demands communion and community for nourishment, rather like branches on a vine.
Our evangelist sketches the historical environment of Jesus very sparingly. His contemporaries knew that he came from an ordinary family. In the Jordan context with John the Baptist he makes his first disciples, and then quickly encounters the sick and the alienated and the rich and the clever. He meets Pharisees and Sadducees and High Priests and the Procurator who represented the Roman Emperor. By teaching people and curing people he showed how God's light was shining. By discoursing with friends and enemies he manifests the foundational importance of the truth. As a native of Galilee and frequently in Jerusalem and its surrounds, the Word pitches his tent among his people; it was like the old ark of the covenant with the wandering people of God. When many refuse to accept him our evangelist says they live in darkness. They care not for light nor for truth nor for love.
What kinds of things did people then and do people now want from life? What do people hope for? Surely, without being entirely superficial, most people want good relationships, peace and love in their families, with their friends and at work. Most people want a decent living, with justice and security. Everyone wants good health. Most good people want to live in a way that is good for them and which should be equally available to others. They want what is beautiful and lovely. Those who could not care less are walking in darkness. They are only half alive.
Our evangelist tells us that the greatest obstacle to Jesus is sin. Sin was well known to the Jews. It was the name given to getting things wrong, always missing the mark. Selfishness and egoism precluded people from accepting Jesus. The Fourth Gospel describes such as liars and adulterers. When Jesus healed a paralytic on the sabbath day his critics said he had no respect for God (5:10ff). When he healed the man born blind the man's parents were afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue (9:22). So they would not tell the truth in public about Jesus. He could open the eyes of those born blind, as only the creator God could, but the spiritually blind still would not or could not see. He himself did nothing in secret. The more he evinced authority for what he said and did the more they said he was diabolical. He is possessed! So they wanted him dead.
Our evangelist hardly speaks at all of conversion. He accentuates belief as trust in Jesus. He was accessible and approachable, and convivial, sharing daily life where people were. He cried when they died and rejoiced when they were restored, and was sorry when they were selfish. And he made the great declaration for freedom, as that capacity to love others, to give oneself away for others. This,strangely is the essence of self-realization; only in relating lovingly with others do we truly find ourselves. By being with them in their joys and sorrows, he was experienced as a fully rounded human being. The Word was made flesh; he became a specific historical human being in a place troubled then and troubled now. Just accept him. Just trust him. Just love him. John's Jesus does not talk about social things much. (The Twelve seem never to be short of cash). It is love and trust in him that matters, and in loving and trusting him one loves and trusts The Father. Who Jesus is is all important. To be with him is to have passed from death to life. Thus he is light and life and truth. Thus truly is he the Word made flesh. What life is all about is accomplished in accepting him. Through him everything came to be, and without him nothing came to be that came to be. We are dealing with absolutes. To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Thus the Fourth Evangelist speaks to us on Christmas Day. He says on several occasions after big events -like the cleansing of the temple- that the disciples 'remembered' (2:22). And we of faith are full of memories. The Church is the shrine of memory. We are not only remembering that first Christmas Day two thousand years ago, we also remember those dear ones- our very own, our loved ones- who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, and now sleep the sleep of the peace. All those who for so long graced these same places in Boarbank Chapel where we now sit and pray. The Word was Made Flesh through and with them. We met him through and with them. Their loveliness showed us his face. Their lives kept life's meaning before our eyes. Their kindness made it possible for us to live in hope. Their standards kept the light shining. With them the darkness did not engulf us. Our evangelist assures us that it never will. Let perfect love drive out fear (1 Jn 4:18). That is our hope. It is very personal. A Very Happy Christmas to you all.
Rev Richard J. Taylor