The Word Made Flesh

Christmas Eve, 2016

The Word Made Flesh

John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

The Word was in the beginning with God.

Everything came into being through him, and without him not one thing was made.

What has come into being through him was life, and the life was the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify to the light.

The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was created through him, but the world did not know him.

He came to his own people, 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, born not from blood nor of the will of the flesh,

nor 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.

It’s easy to get sentimental about Christmas. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that. The world could use a little more sweetness and light. There’s something about this time of year that makes even crusty old souls get all misty-eyed about Christmases past that maybe never really happened but should have. Especially in this Norman Rockwell town.

This has been a tough year for a lot of good souls, and they’re looking for a gentle layer of hope for the holidays. How does that song go? “We need a little Christmas”? We could all use a little more of that.

I suppose that’s why I usually preach about the stable, and the shepherds, and those poor sheep, hauled off the hillside in the middle of the night to go see this babe, born in a manger, because there was no room for them in the Inn. It’s why I talk about young Mary, and brave Joseph, and the angels, trying to reassure them that this unexpected pregnancy and untimely birth are all part of God’s plan. It’s a sweet story of innocence and hope, made all the sweeter by the layers of songs and carols and traditions we’ve laid upon it over the years.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes we need to be reminded of innocence, and hope, of stars in the night and of angels.

But this has been an especially rough year for some people I know. Honestly, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over. Sweetness just doesn’t go down very well; it gets stuck in the throat. Innocence is too far-fetched, and hope is what other people get to enjoy. Some are cynical; some are just sad. Too many losses and hurts. Too much disappointment. It’s just been a tough, tough year. So I hope you’ll understand if I preach for them tonight. I know you’ll find the sweetness in the hymns and carols and candle-light, and that’s all good. It’s all good.

It’s just that tonight is more than sentimental, so much more. Jesus is more than a sweet little baby. Jesus is the Word made flesh, God’s incarnation, the Light that is the life of all people. This night is about the mystery, and the passion.

The eternal, perfect God coming into our fragile, broken world. That’s what John’s Gospel helps us to see…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Jesus was there, before time began. The Word, John calls him. The Word that spoke creation into being. “In the beginning,” Genesis declares, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God’s Word called creation out of chaos, separated light from darkness and day from night. God spoke a Word and time began.

The Word was in the beginning with God. Everything came into being through him.What has come into being through him was life.

Your life, my life, the lives of all the people you love, and have loved… all life, this creation, this earth, this universe… what came into being was life, in all its fullness and richness and beauty; the patterns and complexity… This is the source of life.

And the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There is darkness in this world. There always has been, and always will be. People face grief and heartache, humiliation and betrayal, shock and despair. Families and communities and nations become divided. We cause each other pain and don’t know how to make it right. Sometimes it’s frightening how dark the world can be. The same world of beauty breeds ugliness; every life carries in it inevitable loss; each love has the potential of heartache. That’s how the world is.

But the light shines in the darkness. This light, this eternal light, this unquenchable light. Nothing can overcome it; neither life nor death, nor things present nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation can overcome that Light. This Light shines on all people.

He came into the world, he was in the world…

He came into our world, this world… Writer Madeleine L’Engle believes the sacrifice of the incarnation was even greater than the sacrifice of the cross. The cross was terrible, yes, but there are worse deaths.  When she wrote those words her husband Hugh was dying, and it was a long struggle, traumatic and hard. But she saw Christ there, too, present through it all. Because Christ, the eternal Word, came into this world.

He didn’t have to. He didn’t have to be human. He didn’t have to choose to face suffering and grief. But he did. He chose to enter the world, this world of love and joy and pain. Christ chose to be vulnerable, as vulnerable as a new-born babe. He took on our form, and became like us…

And to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God, born of God.

He took on our form, became like us, and then gave us power to become like him. He made us children of God. There is holiness in us. That Word is in each one of us, in our own living and dying and loving. In everything we enjoy and everything we have to endure, he is here with us. Whatever you have faced, he is with you.

And the Word became flesh

    and lived among us.

Among us… in this messy, complicated world, in the sweet places and the heartache, with the hopeful and the cynical… among us. That Word, creating from before time began, became flesh.

Writer Brene Brown says the incarnation makes perfect sense to her: God saying, “I am love” isn’t enough. God saying, “love each other” isn’t enough. It’s too easy to romanticize love, make it something simple and sentimental and sweet. “[T]here’s no way that most of us could have understood what love was,” she says, “without seeing what love looked like.”

Jesus is what love looks like. 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.

We have this Word, full of grace and truth. Its purity, its essence, its holiness, its power…

The sacred, in our broken world. Purest love, in human form. The Light, shining in darkness.

The Word, made flesh.

Thanks be to God

 

Rev. Karen Chakoian

First Presbyterian Church

Granville, OH