Friday, December 25, 2020

“The Word and Light Incarnate” (John 1:1-14) The Sermon for Sunday, December 25, 2020


Today, our gospel message comes to us from John 1:1-14, “The Word became flesh.”
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

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

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

14 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 (NRSV).
Heavenly Father, you sent your Son to reveal your will for our lives and redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire us with confidence that you are with us in the midst of the storms of life, bring peace to our troubled souls, and lead your church throughout the ages. Enable us to live as your redeemed saints, that our lives may witness to our faith. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

“The Word and Light Incarnate”
By Chaplain Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

For many folks, this time of year is very stressful because of their high expectations of themselves and others. On the lighter side, I came across ten things that help you know Christmas is almost here when: 1) The infamous fruitcake returns from its 12 months of hiding. 2) The NHL referees are not the only ones giving away games. 3) Santa’s belly is not the only thing shaking like a bowl of jelly. 4) Your Christmas list is written in black, while your checkbook balance is written in red. 5) You are pulling an all-nighter because of the words “Some assembly required.” 6) The Salvation Army bell ringers start accepting credit cards. 7) A trip to the mall and back is more challenging than the Indy 500. 8) It’s a Wonderful Life has been shown for the 13th time. 9) The credit card is smoked along with the turkey and ham. 10) There are more pine needles on your carpet than on your tree.

Hopefully, for you, Christmas is more than all of the things that add stress to your life. Both our passage from Hebrews and our gospel today speaks “the moreness” of Christmas. The Hebrews passage reminds us that the long ago and far away became the here-and-now closeness of God to humankind in the person of Jesus. The prophets who had visions of a Messiah spoke of the day he would come and longed for that day. For them, though he still seemed long ago and far away, even though they likely lived with the longing to see the Messiah in their lifetime. In the gospel, Jesus the Word existed in the long ago and far away creating the universe—then, one day, Jesus the Word became flesh and lived among us in the here-and-now. The gospel writer also refers to Jesus as “the light shining in the darkness.
Light that the darkness is not able to overcome or put out.

Mr. Anderson was in London, and of all the things he saw and did, the one that stood out most clearly was a visit to Nelson’s flagship, the Victory.

A young sailor, his face aglow with pride—showed him around, and when they reached a little cabin, he pointed to the very spot where Nelson died.

Suddenly the sailor switched off the lights, and had it not been for a solitary candle that flickered above them, they would have stood in darkness.

“You know, I’ll never forget it. When the lights went off, by that flickering flame I could almost see Trafalgar unfolding before my eyes.” It’s a bit like life, I thought later. For often, what is really worthwhile isn’t to be found in the spotlights, but rather in the places where a humble light burns perpetually. Jesus came in the flesh to live among us; born in a barn at a small place like Bethlehem; born to ordinary folks, yet he was the eternal Word that created all things and the Light of the world.

Jesus, a tiny, fragile, vulnerable baby in an insignificant corner of the world; yet, his humble beginning as a human being now has significance for the whole world and has drawn to himself millions upon millions of people down through the ages and right up to the present day. This small, humble beginning of Jesus’ birth reminds me of another story.

On Christmas Eve, 1937, an Australian radio announcer, Norman Banks, was sitting at the window of his Melbourne flat when he heard music from the open window opposite. There he saw an old woman with a lighted candle in her hand listening to a carol.

This fired his imagination, and on the following Christmas, he held his first open-air Carols by Candlelight service—a custom that has since spread all over Australia. The Melbourne service, which has been held each year since, has been broadcast around the world, millions have shared in it, and thousands have been raised for charity, all because of that old woman with her candle. It is amazing how one person lighting a candle in Australia could inspire millions around the globe to do the same. Jesus the light in the darkness, can and does overcome the darkness.

Speaking of Christmas Eve Candlelight services, back in 2008, when I was serving Grace Lutheran Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, our acolyte was extinguishing all of the candles at the end of the service. When she came to the Christ Candle on our Advent wreath, she made three unsuccessful attempts to extinguish it. Finally, on the fourth attempt, it was extinguished.

This reminded me of the Christmas Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Ultimately, Christ the Light of the world shall extinguish all darkness; we shall live in his Light eternally.

Speaking of living in Christ’s Light, our gospel continues to underscore the significant work of Christ the Light in verse nine: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Sooner or later, he enlightens everyone. What does that mean? Well, I think there are endless ways in which he enlightens us. Of course, the obvious ways are through his word and the sacraments, through prayer, and the community of the faithful. He also enlightens us through our daily round, the challenges, and changes of life, the people we encounter at the bus stop, behind the grocery checkout stand, on a park bench. His enlightenment may reach us in the pages of history and literature; or through scientific and technological discoveries. Most of all, he enlightens us in and through those human beings: who are poor, who suffer, who are young and old, widows, widowers and orphans, refugees, those who often are at the boundaries of society. They are Jesus’ presence to us, and they enlighten us in that they are often the most kind and loving, generous, unselfish, and resilient people I’ve met. Jesus shines through them.

So, this Christmas, may the Light of Jesus the Messiah enlighten you and shine through you to share his love and grace with everyone. Amen.

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Scripture is taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Sermon contributed by Caplain Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Bethany Meadows Nursing Home of Camrose, AB on Dec 24, 2014.
Christmas sermon for December 25, 2020

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