Mother Katherine’s sermon preached Dec. 25, 2020

Posted by on Fri, Dec 25, 2020 in Christmas, Feast Days, Sermons

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ:
Christmas Day

December 25, 2020

John’s gospel opening is exquisite poetry, some say it is drawn from an early hymn in fact. Growing up it sounded a bit colorless to me, then somewhere along the way it came to life for me, I came to love it dearly. John’s mystical poetry is freeing, inviting us to use our own minds and spirits to take it in, our own paints to color it, and then it makes a deep resonant sense — that defies explanation. Unlike last night’s gospel from Luke, which tells all about who, how, when and where Jesus was born, John’s gospel tells us who Jesus is. Jesus is a manifestation of God, a real and perceivable embodiment of God for us. It’s alright that we struggle a bit with the odd poetry and grammar, that’s part of letting go of making all things exclusively human. We are trying to let this holy Word be in us, and us in the holy Word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” We are to know Jesus has always been. He was in the beginning and somehow was both God-self and in eternal relationship with God. The Word was in relationship with us long before anyone considered it, and now we rejoice to finally be let in on the good part—we will know the Word, the Light, and come to know him in our lives. 

“…and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” 

The world may not have known the presence of the Word until this ‘reveal’ — and how spectacular that we can only see light in the darkness! The Light and Life has always been, did we miss it shining in the brightness? When the Incarnate One is made known it is by the Light shining in the darkness for us. This darkness we encounter often and have come to know all too well. Jesus is light to our darkness, and yet doesn’t completely dispel it or escape it. Jesus comes to be with us shining forth in those parts of our lives. “The darkness did not overcome it” might be to say the darkness remains so that we can always see the Light. 

Some years ago employers began searching the multitude of resumes by using a search which picked up key words that might relate to the job they were hiring for. The ones including those key words were then read by real people and given consideration that the others didn’t get. It worked well until job hunters learned the lesson of this gospel; the contrast of light in darkness makes it visible in a way light on light does not. People began to fill the white spaces of their resumes with those key words in “white” lettering. The computer then included theirs in the batch sent for review, even though the words weren’t part of the visible print. 

Light coming in darkness makes it visible to us mere mortals, and we witness it’s power to illumine the darkness we might be struggling with. Jesus came into the world that we might know him and that he might know first hand our human experience – that includes the darkness of human suffering and pain. Jesus came to deliver us from the quicksand of sins which could otherwise keep us “in the dark.’ Jesus as the Light points us towards a salvation we did not see or find without him. 

Last night in the children’s sermon, I asked if they would ever consider leaving a present under the tree, all wrapped up, and not open it for a year, or maybe never. Never! Yet people do just that with the the Word, this gift of light and love. They leave this precious gift under the tree by refusing to even consider there is a God who loves them enough to light their way; the I don’t do Jesus defense comes with no desire to inquire or let such love make a claim on them. 

“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.”

People miss it when their whole focus is only the beloved Christmas-enhancing traditions; baking, shopping, decorating, wrapping. Ignoring that the little box, way in the dark of the back of the tree, is like trying to do all of those beautiful traditions by feeling your way around with all the lights off.  You who are here this morning obviously know this better than most. You are here — even by virtue of our being well and widely ‘distributed’ in this way — you are here because you know the Light of the world comes, even in our greatest darkness. Christ comes through you to light the way for others who are stuck there, afraid or unseeing of that light. You come into their lives and point to that box still wrapped up under the tree. Perhaps it is even wrapped in swaddling clothes. 

We are all children of God, even before we know it. To receive and believe in Christ happens when we’re ready and happens because someone showed us the Light. You are sent to help people see and unwrap this most precious spectacular gift themselves. 

“ …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.”

This has been a more than difficult year for us, and it’s understandable to find ourselves struggling to keep faith in this God who calls us all children. We might grapple with what it means to be part of God’s light shining in the world. That’s alright, because there is someone called to take your hand and walk you back to the light. And after a year of it being unsafe to embrace each other or pass the Peace between the warmth of each other’s hands, we will be all too ready to take hold of the hand offered to each other! It may be a close friend, a partner, your children, grandchildren or parents. Most often though it is the unexpected hand offered us, or when we are offering it ourselves in giving to those who need help, caring for those society ignores or treats unjustly, being willing to wait with someone in their darkness, pain, or suffering, until you can join hands and look to the Light of Christ. Who is showing it to whom? I don’t think it matters. 

“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.”

You know the cost of adjusting life so some of God’s light and love can be given to others, and God wants so much to be manifest in this world that he sent his Son. The relationship is what completes God’s love for us. It can be lived out and given out through you.

And once you’ve said yes and experienced this, no other path of life will do.

Last night I told those gathered about a scrap of paper I came across in a book once belonging to my mother. Seeing her handwriting made me ache with missing her right alongside my unexpected joy at glimpsing it again. It was a gift of God’s Light when I had been feeling around in the dark. It said, 

Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.

© 2020 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved.

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