Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sermon Christmas Day

Christmas Day 2016 – John 1:1-14

‘Full of grace and truth.’
Should not this description of the Father’s only Son,
the one who was born as a child so long ago,
fill us with awe and wonder?
Does it not resonate anew
as we reflect on the past year
and as we look forward to the time to come?

Full of grace.
Grace –
life itself as God’s sheer gift,
and not as something which must be taken;
reconciliation with God as God’s sheer gift,
and not as something which must be earned.
Grace is made tangible in the child who will grow to be man,
who will scatter grace as seed
and die to prove God’s grace to human beings.
Here is grace –
that God does not hold anything against us or anything from us.
Here is grace –
a child, born in pain into the world,
to become vulnerable to each and every one of us,
for to be in community with another is to be vulnerable to another.
Only those who wish to be in community
can become vulnerable to another person,
and so God himself must be born –
must be born and die in community with others.
Full of truth.
Truth cannot be simply equated with historical veracity,
although it is inseparable from seeking to speak in accordance with it.
To speak truth is to represent facts as they are,
feelings and emotions as they are,
God as he is,
without twisting words for personal gain or advantage.
Lies use truth as a cloak,
but truth uncovers itself,
presents itself in unvarnished form,
in flat prose or rhymed poetry.
This child in the manger is truth
because he speaks to us of who God is;
we know that his witness is true
because he did not use it for personal gain,
but gave up everything that his speech might be proved true.

Grace and truth.
How little we know of such things today!
How diseased the concepts have become!
So diseased that we cannot even begin to disentangle
grace and law, truth from lies.
And so we live in a state of perpetual doubt and desire.
In the ancient story,
when the evil one sought to come between us and our creator,
he sowed doubt in our hearts;
doubt that God’s word was truth,
that we could trust God’s word;

doubt that God was grace, sheer gift,
but instead that we should reach out and take
what we desired and what should be ours.

‘He was in the world,
and the world came into being through him,
but the world did not know him.’
This is not simply that people were ignorant
of the historical fact of Christmas,
but that the child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas
is antithetical to the world which builds itself upon the lies of the evil one.
He is antithesis to the world built upon half-truths and cynicism,
deconstruction of the creation,
cloaked power and secrecy and double-speak
and the devolution of language.
He is antithesis to the world which delights to tell young people
that they are only their test-scores and their physical desirability,
and that they must create their own reality to fit their dreams;
that delights to tell parents and parents-to-be
that they are only what they can afford to give their children;
that delights to tell old people that they are only their health
and what they have accomplished,
and that what they cannot control has meant that their life has failed.
He is antithesis to the brutality and violence
which hide under noble sentiments of every kind;
he is antithesis both to the march of progress
and the retreat to mindless tradition.

Instead, he is grace and truth.
To rediscover these things again for the first time
might mean a revolution in our thinking, in our acting, in our speaking.
To act with grace,
that one seeks to reflect God’s free giving in every encounter with others,
holding nothing against the other and forgiving the other.
To speak in truth,
that one seeks to be trustworthy in every word,
whether a hard or an easy one,
refusing to use our words as cloaks for violence or deceit.
In this time we must be known as people of grace and truth.

This can and must be our response to the revelation
that God himself is grace and truth;
for we approach the cradle and find there
nothing that we can use to our own advantage
but instead the grace and truth
that frees us to be gracious and truthful.

May this child capture you,
may he enrapture you;
for from the debt that would enslave you he redeems you;
from the foes which would ensnare you he rescues you;
from the death that would envelop you he restores you.

This is the grace and truth which we proclaim to you.

Merry Christmas!