December 25th, 2022
Christmas Day (on a Sunday)
(In the name of the Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit)
The first Christian message was “Christ is Risen!”
And of course… the receivers of that message were like,
“Ok, we have questions.”
Who is this Christ you speak of?
…a rabbi named Jesus, from Nazareth, from the house of David
Well, if this Christ was raised from the dead, how did he die?
…he was executed by the State on a Roman Cross
What did he do to get himself killed?
…well, that’s where the story gets interesting…
a lot of people wanted him dead,
…he spoke truth to power, so of course those IN power wanted him dead…
…he also loved those who were considered unlovable…
he ate with sinners and outcasts…
he literally touched lepers and the sick and healed them…
And so this made the religious establishment uneasy so they didn’t want him around any more either…
AND his followers started calling him the Messiah and the long awaited Christ which gets really political and religiously controversial.
Who were his followers? Really important and powerful and smart people, right?
Well…. More like fishermen, tax collectors, lepers, and prostitutes.
What was his family like and where was he born?
…ohhh ok, now we finally get to the Christmas story
You see, our four gospels in the Bible really focus on the ministry of Jesus and the last week of his life… his last supper and how he celebrated the Passover, the Cross and the surprise of the Empty Tomb.
There was a certain sense of urgency to get this message out…
That the long awaited Christ lived, died and rose again!
But as the church began to grow and expand and as it became apparent that this Christ who lived, died and rose again wasn’t coming back super soon, the Church began to share more of his story.
Last evening we got the Christmas story from Luke
Last Wednesday during out Advent service we heard Matthew’s Christmas story.
(you can find that story and reflection on our YouTube page… subscribe and smash that “like” button!)
Today, on Christmas Day, the first day of Christmas…
we get John’s Christmas story…
Scholars believe the gospel of Mark was the first gospel written, and with a real since of urgency of getting the story of Jesus out there to the masses he skipped the nativity and birth story and immediately jumps right into Jesus’ ministry and rushes him right to the cross and the empty tomb.
Then Luke and Matthew were written next and most likely written around the same time… borrowing and using some stories from Mark and perhaps a mysterious source Bible scholars call Q, and sharing their on theological take on Jesus for their communities of Jesus followers.
Luke’s Christmas story is still fresh in our ears from Last night or perhaps the Charlie Brown Christmas special.
Matthew focuses more on Joseph and records the story of the Magi.
By the time we get to the gospel of John, the last of the four to be written… The church and the followers of Jesus have had more time to reflect on who Jesus is and why he matters.
So, John steps up the Christological game… It’s time to theologize.
And that makes sense, right? When we have had more time to reflect on a story in our own life, it most of time takes on a deeper meaning.
John presents a Cosmic Nativity, a Cosmic Christ…
Who is born not just to humble parents from a humble town but borrowing language from Geneses chapter One…
The Christ was there from the beginning of all things.
“In the beginning was the Word”
Remember in Genesis chapter one it is God who speaks creation into being… “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, God said… Let there be light… and it was so… and God saw it was good.”
John chapter one is the prologue to John’s gospel, and it guides us into the mystery of the incarnation… Incarnation is a fancy theological word that comes from “carne” or “flesh” or “meat”… in-carne means to be “in fleshed” “in the meat”.
A word that captures that the Christ, the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity… was there from the very beginning of all things and its because of him that all things exist.
Luke brings us to Bethlehem
Matthew shares the story of the Magi and takes us on the dangerous journey of Joseph and the holy family
John is the one who draws us into the Cosmic Christ…
This poem or hymn draws us into the mystery of God who becomes incarnate in the gift of Christ… as the author of Hebrews articulates, “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”
And here’s the thing, as cosmic at John gets with his Christology…
Notice how he grounds the Divine and what God is up to in the Christ.
Sure, John doesn’t put baby Jesus in a manger…
But he does say this Word – in Greek, the Logos…
that was with God from the beginning, that spoke creation into being becomes “flesh”…meat, flesh and bone, blood and guts… one with the human story and condition, bound to what we experience in life.
God becomes a part of the creation God spoke into existence.
And we will see for the rest of the liturgical year how grounded this Christ is in how he lives and loves.
Jesus…. Full of grace and truth will…
Call a bunch of misfits and imperfect people, like you and me, to follow him.
Will eat and hang out with the oppressed and the marginalized
He will heal the sick and reach out to those who don’t fit in
He will feed the hungry
He will challenge the status quo and any kind of religious practice or believe that undermines the reality that we are created in the image of God.
He will witness and experience friends, family and loved ones die and he will experience grief and pain and the sting of death.
And he will journey to the cross to stand in solidarity with those in pain and who suffer and who experience the sting of death. Jesus will also ask “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And in the end he will reveal how death does not and will not have the final word over our lives and that in the end…. Love wins…
That the Love of God literally becomes flesh and blood for us.
As God does throughout the scriptures…
Beginning in Genesis…
God did not and does not give up on humanity…
The message of Christmas is that God save from within…
Not from the “top – down”, but from the bottom.
In Christ, God walks the ground we walk on and becomes grounded for us.
And so… as we get closer to a new year… I can’t help but ask…
What is going to ground us this new year?
We have a lot of people in our community of faith and our neighbors and classmates and workmates… who have been through a lot this year.
How do we embody grace and truth for them and with them?
How will we embody Grace and Truth in the new year?
I love to theologize, in books and sermons and on podcasts and in small groups… and yet it doesn’t make a difference if it isn’t grounded in the real lives of people and in the relationships we are entrusted with.
That’s why we do all this in a community, in relationships with one another all year long.
That’s why we ground ourselves in bread and wine and water.
That’s why we take on the same posture as Jesus in how he lived and loved and died and rise again.
That’s why we become the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
We become grounded and in-fleshed for the sake of others.
And guess what…
After today, Christmas isn’t over!
Well, perhaps the Christmas trees will come down and hopefully Mariah Carey songs will finally stop… But Christmas expands over the next 12 days that lead us into the season of Epiphany which unfolds and reveals who this gift of Jesus, the Christ, the Word made flesh really is for us and our lives.
So come on the journey with us!
Let’s do this “we are the Body of Christ” together.