A sermon, based on John 1.1-18, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 1st Sunday after Christmas Day, December 29, 2019.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.
Today, my dear sisters and brothers, I bid you come with me back nearly two-thousand years to the latter first century of the Common Era. The gospel narratives of Mark, being the first, and Matthew and Luke have been written and shared with largely Jewish readers.
Now, imagine this. Taking this account of the life of Jesus, a Middle Eastern story of Hebrew origin about a monotheistic God who entered human history and trying to tell that tale to a first century Greek-speaking, Greek-thinking world of many gods.
Imagine this. John the evangelist taking up that task, wrestling with that task. Thinking, praying, discerning a connection, then writing, “In the beginning was the Word,” and believing, trusting that the Greeks would understand. For word, in the Greek, logos, the animating power of the universe, without which there is nothing and through which all things come to be, was an idea shared by Jewish and Hellenistic cultures.
Imagine this. A Greek reading, “In the beginning was the Word,” being intrigued by John’s use of logos.
Imagine this. That same Greek, immersed in the philosophical dualism that believes in the purity of the spirit realm and the impurity of the world, arriving at the verse, “the Word became flesh;” and, in disgust, throwing the scandalous scroll into the dust. The pure logos encased, entrapped in sordid flesh? Unimaginable!
Imagine this. That same Greek, the shocking idea, on second thought, impossible to erase from consciousness, retrieving the scroll, and, with horrified fascination, reading again, “the Word became flesh.” Then arriving at another shock, “and we have seen his glory.”
Glory? In the Greek, doxa? Eternal and impossible to behold majesty made visible in time and space? Likewise, unimaginable! Yet also wonderful!
God’s glory made real in the flesh of Jesus. This, for John, is the Christmas story.
Now, what does this mean for us?
Imagine this. As we read John’s gospel, we encounter Jesus who not only embraces unconditional love as his belief, but also embodies it as his behavior. Jesus, applying no standard of deserving, merit, or judgment, is equally actively benevolent with everyone; especially the poor and oppressed, forsaken and forgotten, last, least, lost, broken in spirit and barren of hope. There is God’s glory.
Now, imagine this. Daily, the glory of the love of God in Jesus is conceived by the Spirit in the wombs of our souls and given birth in our living; enfleshed, visible to all in our words and deeds, intentions and actions.
Thus, we realize the Christmas story. In us, by us, through us, the Christmas story is made real for the world.
Illustration: Saint John the Evangelist (c. 1630), Giuseppe Vermiglio (1585-1635)