01/04/15 Sermon (January 4, 2015)

posted Jun 24, 2015, 10:10 AM by David Hawkins

“Who Has Made Him Known?”

Scripture Reading: John 1:(1-9) 10-18 (Liturgist)

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14And 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. 15(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.’”)

16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Sermon: "Who Has Made Him Known?"             Rev. David Hawkins

Most of us don’t have the tradition these days to celebrate 12 full days of Christmas, but it used to be kind of a thing. There’s even a song about it -- you may have heard it -- something about a pear tree and partridge and a bunch of geese and dancers, milkers and leapers and of course five golden rings. Come to think of it, no wonder we don’t celebrate 12 days much anymore. It sounds complicated. And expensive.  

But, for the purposes of the church calendar, we are still in the season of Christmas. And I’m glad. This is such a beautiful time of year, with such beautiful music and the sanctuary is so pretty, it’s hard to let go. We still have the trees and the greens and the carols. For the world maybe, Christmas ended a couple of weeks ago, but for the church, it’s still Christmas, at least liturgically.

And so it makes sense that our scripture today is a Christmas story. It might not seem like a Christmas story, but it is. It might not have shepherds and angels and a baby and an inn and wise men and a little town of Bethlehem, but the opening chapter of John is in every way a Christmas story, in fact, it may be the best and final word in Christmas stories.

While the opening verses of Luke and Matthew focus on the actual birth of Jesus, and place it in the historical narrative of his time and place, the opening of Gospel of John digs deeper into who Jesus really is.This story might not have the pastoral imagery of the stable birth, but in just a few verses, it manages to tell us everything we need to know about where Jesus came from, why he came, and what his coming means for us.

These opening words of the fourth Gospel move us from remembering the story of the birth of a baby to remembering that Mary is holding the very heart of God in her arms.

And this is such good news. We so need to know the heart of God. We so need to see who God is, what God looks like, what God acts like. We need to hear from God’s own mouth what our relationship with him is.

And the Word that is spoken from God’s own mouth is ‘Jesus’. When God wants to tell us who he really is, he says, “Jesus.” When God wants to show the world what he he really wants, he says “Jesus.”

Jesus is the singular, complete, sufficient Word, the ultimate ‘Logos’ of God. Jesus is more than just the messenger of the Gospel. Jesus is the Gospel. When John uses this word, “Logos,’ to describe Jesus, it’s not a careless choice. John reaches into the historic memories of his Greek and Hebrew readers to describe who Jesus is.

For the Greeks, with their long history of philosophy, the word ‘Logos’ means rationality, logic, and reason. John uses this word to remind them that Jesus is more than just the reason for the season, Jesus is reason itself. Jesus is rationality. Jesus is what God thinks. Jesus is how God thinks.

And for the Hebrews, the Word ‘Logos’ calls to mind the Torah, the law. Jesus is what God’s law looks like. Jesus is what justice looks like. Does this change how God looks for you? It does for me.

When we are trying to figure out the nature of God, when we are trying to wrap our minds around the unimaginable mystery that is the infinite God of the universe, we only need to look as far as Jesus.

  And this is very good news. We live in a world with competing ideas about who God is. For so many, a twisted understanding of God is the motivating force behind such atrocities, such hate, such violence. Such terrible things have been done in the name of God, it makes us wonder if we really know who God is -- if we really can know who God is. So many people have misappropriated God’s name for their own agenda it’s hard to know what God really wants from us, or what he expects from us.

And to be honest, our mis-understanding of God is understandable. It’s hard to wrap our minds around God. How do you figure out the creator of everything, beyond time, beyond space, beyond imagination? We can’t picture God. We can’t see God. We can’t hear God. We don’t know why God does the things he does.

And because we don’t understand God, because we can’t understand God, we associate acts of God with things like hurricanes and earthquakes and other natural disasters. For some of us, God is a God of disaster. For others, God is capricious, for others, God is wrathful, vengeful, the enforcer of the law. For others, God is fate. And for others, God is remote, distant, disengaged from human affairs.

But these poetic words from John remind us that this is not who God is. This is never who God was. If we want to know who God is, what God wants, how God feels about us, we only need to look at the tiny figure of a baby in a manger. Jesus Christ is the very heart of God, was with God in the beginning, he is light of light, God of God. There is no New Testament God and Old Testament God, there is only one God, and he is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is the real story of Christmas. Yes, it’s about angels, and shepherds, and wise men and a stable. It’s about a courageous young woman, her remarkably supportive husband, and their difficult journey to Bethlehem. And to us, here in the 21st century, it’s also about family, candles, and presents under the tree.

But as we get ready to move out of the Christmas season, John reminds us that it’s about a whole lot more than that. Christmas is that moment in history when God definitively, completely, and unambiguously showed himself to us.  

Christmas is that moment when the infinite becomes finite, when the unimaginable becomes flesh and blood, and the creator of stars and galaxies is held close in his mother’s arms.

In Christmas we realize that the Gospel is much simpler to understand that we could ever have thought. God comes to us, not as a king, not as a burning bush, but as a baby. We hear God’s voice, not from a whirlwind or from the deepest silence, but in the cries of an infant.

It’s not hard to figure out, this Christmas Gospel: God so loved us that he sent himself to save us. That part is really pretty simple. The hard part of the Gospel is: how do we live out our response to a God who places himself as an infant in our arms? How do we live our lives in a way that is worthy of the trust and love that God shows us by coming to us despite our sin, despite our resistance, despite the fact that we are so often unaware of our need for him?

I wish there was a simple answer to that question. But each of has to come to our own understanding of our response to God’s grace. Each of us has to discover for ourselves how our lives might be a reflection of God’s love for humanity. It’s not an easy or clear-cut decision for anyone. We all must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  

But when we do consider our own lives, and the purposes to which we are called, we are not left alone with our decision. When we are looking for what God wants from us, the clearest picture of God’s heart is right here on this table. Given freely to us. Poured out for us.

In the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has been made known to us.

Glory to God in the highest
and peace to God’s people on earth. Amen.