Sermon: Born from God
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
December 25, 2016
Scriptures: Psalm 98 and John 1:1-14
††††††††† I found this the other day as I did some last-minute Christmas shopping. [Holding up a sign that says ďBELIEVE in the magic of the season.Ē] †I bought it, not because I liked what it said, but precisely because I didnít. Yes, itís pretty and cheerful and it made for a great slogan for a major retailer, but itís encouraging us to believe in something that is not what this holy day is all about. Jesusí birth was not an act of magic. The scripture we read last night [Luke 2:1-20] is not a fairy tale meant to entertain or teach some deeper truth. The story of Jesusí incarnation has been sanitized and romanticized to the point that it has lost its impact.
††††††††† This may be why the writer of the Gospel of John doesnít include any of the birth narrative. John starts with Jesus as Godís Word and work in the world, beginning before our world existed. John, the writerís, Jesus comes to earth not as a powerless infant, but as God in human flesh, filled with light and life, the very things that brought our world into being. John shows us a more powerful Jesus, divine from the beginning of eternity.
††††††††† This is what Christians are called to believe; that Jesus is God incarnate, filled with the power to heal and transform our world. Jesus, came to us to correct the misguided notion that power wins and privilege and wealth are the highest good. Johnís Jesus shines a light on that darkness and all these 2000+ years later the darkness has not been able to overcome that message. Unfortunately, the darkness still exists, so the work is not complete.
††††††††† We are called to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but not in a subservient following in Dadís big-shoes-to-fill kind of way. Jesus, is fully divine, co-equal and co-eternal with God, and it is their Holy Spirit that still impacts our world and our hearts to this day. The three are One. This is the Trinity, the Holy Trinity, one of which came to earth in human form Ė fully human Ė but still fully divine. In doing this God revealed to us Godís heart, grace and love for all. Jesus came to us to show us just how real and powerful God is; healing, turning water into wine, a lunch for one into a feast for thousands, and ultimately showing that even death is not the end for those who believe Ė in Jesus, the Christ, not Santa Claus.
††††††††† The story of Santa Claus and his helpers bring a lot of joy to little children this time of year, but Santa and Jesus are not equals. The joy of this season comes, not because of presents under a tree, but because of the gift of Jesus who came to show us the true nature of God, which is love. It is when we operate in this self-giving love that wonderful things happen. This is not just a Christmas miracle, but an Easter one, first of all. We are the Easter people after all, for if not for the resurrection of Jesus, no one would celebrate his birth.
††††††††† The Gospel of John will be our study throughout the next few months. His perspective on Jesus is different. He includes longer speeches from Jesus to the disciples, many miracles, fewer parables, and a foreshadowing of Jesusí message reaching the whole world, even beyond Jesusí Jewish community. Jesus was born Jewish, but it didnít end there.
††††††††† This starts in the first chapter of John. Verse 11 tells us that ďHe came to what was him own, and his own people did not accept him.Ē Verse 12 goes on to say that ďall who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.Ē This statement points to what we are called to believe in Ė the name of Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, our savior who brought the gifts of grace and truth. The grace of God; filled with forgiveness and mercy, reaching out to all and the truth that shines as a light to the nations and has the power to bring peace.
††††††††† Gospel writer John assures us that our belief in the power of Jesusí name leads to our transformation into becoming children of God, as if adopted by faith, not because of what we have done, but because of what God does. Our new birth is ďof God.Ē It is an act of love from our heavenly Father, not because weíve been nice instead of naughty, but because we have received the good news of Jesus Christ and placed our faith in him. Even though we have been naughty in the past and are still tempted, this gift of grace is still ours.
††††††††† God has given us the best gift of all. Failing to open it is the biggest mistake. Letting it sit on the shelf, unopened, year after year, would be such a shame. When we open and accept this gift, the light of Christ has the power to erase the darkness in our lives Ė the fear, the hatred, the doubt and all the things that make us miserable. The light of a single candle last night spread joy to every heart. This is not just a once-a-year thing. It happens every day and some of us need to be reminded every day that God in Christ Jesus has the power; more than political structures, more than financial structures, more power than even hate and fear. The world we live in would have us believe we cannot change these things. They are wrong.
The power of self-giving love, Godís love, can and will change the world, but only if we live in that mode. We cannot sit back wringing our hands, believing more in Santa and the magic of the season than in the power of the risen Christ and expect anything to change. We are empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit to have the courage to live a new way; Jesusí way.
Next week we begin a new year, 2017. As this year dawns, I hope youíll join me in listening to God and following on the path the Jesus leads us; a path filled with hope and possibility. Even though we cannot see all that far ahead, we will trust and not fear.
God taught a lesson through the manna in the wilderness; a lesson that has been lost on the many who collect and strive, grasp and store up for their own security.
The recently escaped Hebrew people that Moses was leading through the wilderness needed food. As God was leading them, God supplied quail for protein and manna for bread. The manna came each morning in the form of flakey dust which was to be collected off the grass and leaves. Each family was to collect what they needed for the day, no more and no less. There were those who tried to stock-pile and they discovered their surplus turned moldy and infested.
Each day, when we live and work in community we will have all that we need to do the work God asks of us, but only if we live on what we need and share freely. We must trust God, and not fear for the future. Hopefully, it wonít take us forty years of wilderness wandering to learn this lesson.
Instead of clinging to the past, letís continue to forge ahead, bringing with us the best of our tradition, the wisdom of our experiences of God and life, our reasoning abilities and the guidance of the Holy Scriptures. As God reveals Godís self, we will see the wonder of the love, the light and the life of Jesus that will lead all who follow to eternal life. Merry Christmas! Amen.