excerpt from the sermon Hay and
Stars, Part 2
Matthew John 1: 6-18
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This one line
is the entire Christmas story. The entire message of the birth of
Christ. The Word, God's fullness, the second Person of the Trinity,
sent by God as a message, the message of love and goodness and God's
real presence in the world, sent to dwell in flesh, sent to be human,
to live among us and speak our language so that we might receive
Him and understand what God wants us to hear from God.
Word became flesh and lived among us—sent as a helpless, innocent
new baby—which says clearly that weakness in the world's terms
can be above and beyond all the world's power and riches and materiality.
God's presence is more likely to be found in the
trust of a little child than in the worldly wisdom of one who has
made their compromises and has ceased to believe in that in which
he or she cannot see, touch and feel. That which we might call naive
trust turns out to be God's presence, God's gift. He who receives
the baby Jesus with the trust of a little child, of such is the
Kingdom of God.
chose to come into the world as a baby child, not as a prophet's
message, not as a spirit, not even as words, but as a human being.
In doing so, God has said that the life of flesh is good. He has
said in this birth that God adores us and blesses us and looks at
us and says, "It is good." God loves us so much that in
order to communicate with us, God has spoken in our language, the
language we can understand, the language of being human. He sanctified
our lives by having His Son live a human life, in which Jesus walked
and talked, prayed and cried, loved and suffered, partied and pondered;
there is no joy and no pain that we can experience that Jesus does
not understand, and so God understands, walks with us, knows our
sorrows and feels our pain.
God, too, feels pain. We know that from Jesus' experience on the
Cross. We know it also by the fact that God spoke
in one common universal language, the language of flesh/humanity,
the language of the babe in the manger; and in so doing God was
saying that we his children are created to be one, to share in the
language of humanity. God's pain here comes in the fact that we
are not one, that we make unnatural divisions, setting one group
against another, filling our eyes and hearts with the evil of prejudice,
of alienation one from another. God's pain comes from our racism,
our sexism, our ageism, whatever divides us.
we have beheld his glory, the glory as of a father's
only son, full of grace and truth. We behold the glory of
God's son anytime we see beyond our own needs, whenever we are moved
by the emotions of someone else, whenever we catch a glimpse of
the divine. It may come in a moment of art, or of love, or of anguish
for another. If just once in our lives, one time, we catch a glimmer
of God's presence in another person or in our self, or in a situation,
if just once in our lives this happens, we have beheld his glory.
of grace and glory. Grace is God's unmerited, unearned,
unearnable love, generosity, relief from distress. Glory is the
brightness of God's presence, God's bright, dazzling light. In Jesus
we do see God and we see God's grace and glory. It fills us and
makes our life different. We can never be the same once we behold
God's grace and glory. We are changed.
his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace...
fullness came when he was incarnated, when he was born as Jesus.
His fullness filled the presence of all who knew him, of all who
Most were moved beyond words and transformed. Some wanted to silence
him, and a few of those took steps to make sure he could no longer
speak his message of God's forgiving, unconditional, democratizing
love. But they did not reckon with the power of God's love for God's
people—all people. And so the grace upon grace that Jesus
brought remains a vital presence among us to this day. We continue
to receive all the benefits of his life, death and resurrection,
blessing after blessing, new life after new life. We can be defeated
in body but God's grace is always there to lift us to new beginnings.
This is pure grace.
John goes on to say: The law indeed was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. All are good.
The law itself is the product of love, given by God as guidance
for living this life; e.g., love your parents, be faithful to your
spouse, do no murder, do not steal. This is wise advice for living
a life that will avoid unnecessary tragedy. But grace and truth
came through Jesus, who brings the Good News that even if we break
the law, God forgives and loves us. The news that our bond with
God is not one of obedience that earns approval, disobedience that
earns rejection; in Jesus we have seen the truth that God's love
is grace: unearned, unearnable and unconditional adoration of us,
God's own children. If before Jesus we obeyed the law so that God
would love us, since Jesus we obey because we KNOW that God loves
us and we respond with the goodness that the knowledge puts in us.
one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the
Father's heart, who has made him known.
there were many, many intimations of God prior to Christ. There
was the still, small voice of God speaking to the young Israel.
There was the parting of the Red Sea, God championing God's people
against great but earthly odds. But in Jesus we have seen the fullness
of God—not just voice, not just saving act, but the face of
God, the feelings of God, the compassion and wisdom and patience—we
have seen a model for our own lives, we have seen the caring, adoring
John wrote this nearly 2,000 years ago. At this Christmastime we
have heard this once again, the wonder and the glory and the divine
mystery that is the birth of Christ. May it transform us once again.
©1999 William Kolb
26, 1999 at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee.
John 1: 6-18
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.