December 26, 2021: Sermon Preached by The Rev. Katie Holicky
12/26/21 The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector
For the last few years, as I have considered the birth of Jesus at Christmas, the inbreaking of God in the world, it has been impossible for me to not think of how the birth of the little ones who have changed my life. Almost five and a half years ago we had moved to Maine, but I had yet to find work and was feeling a bit lost and uncertain. I knew I was called to this amazing place, and yet, after months of searching for work and being freshly graduated from seminary, I had no clue what I would do. I found myself searching for not just work, but a deeper meaning and purpose.
Around this same time, in mid August, our eldest niece, Eliza, was born. My brother called me to tell me the news and from the quiet tiredness I could hear and feel from their hospital room, I heard this strong, yet small cry burst forth. I had no idea the impact of hearing her would have on me. I began to weep and I felt my heart shift. The next week I packed my bags and headed back home to Virginia to meet this little one. When my dad picked me up from the airport he gave me one of his classic too tight hugs and he began to shed a few tears.
He said, “Kate, brace yourself. You will never be the same after holding this child. Your worldview will change. Your heart will grow, and knowing you… you will desire to walk differently in the world, making it a better place for her.” Boy howdy was he right! The first time I held that sweet babe, I knew for certain that God had broken into my heart in a new way with the birth of this precious child. I felt grounded anew– in a way my heart had been longing for. That week I was compelled to journal again, and while cuddling this babe late one night found the job posting for the first church I served in Maine.
Isn’t it amazing how new life breaking into the world transforms us? While I will be the first to admit, as much as I love and cherish our nieces and nephew, and as much as their births have changed my heart, they are not Jesus. And still, there is something powerful about new life. Something miraculous about God breaking into the world in the many ways that God does.
Today we are invited to ponder the inbreaking of God in the world through the prolog of the Gospel of John. The prolog or prelude to the ministry of Jesus that introduces themes and vocabulary used throughout this Gospel. This Gospel that is steeped in the highest Christology. This passage, while not containing a birth narrative, helps us to answer the Christmas question of, “Who is the child of Bethlehem and why should we care about this birth?” (FOTW, 188). In John, Jesus’ incarnation is more of a cosmological understanding of the physical incarnation of Jesus in the world. (JANT, 157).
These opening verses of John, “are the necessary frame for understanding John’s story of the revelation of God in Jesus” (WBC, 519). This part of the Three in One that was in the beginning and came to be enfleshed, relational with humanity. This is a moment of the fullness of God’s presence which is kinetic, active (WBC, 519). The language of the prolog highlights the importance of embodyment for John (WBC, 519). Something that resonates with me as an Episcoplain as I ponder the many ways our full beings, our bodies, are part of our worship in praising God.
One writer in the commentaries points to the depth of the particular words found in this passage; “The Greek term usually translated “Word” (logos) is found only here in John. This term had a range of meanings covering aspects of intelligence as well as verbal expression of intelligence, and it had acquired a specific use among philosophers to refer to the divine intelligence or wisdom that gives order to the world” (TBC, 340). The inbreaking of God through Jesus in John is a physical incarnation of divine wisdom guiding and teaching us. It is that wisdom that is to lead us in the ordering of the world.
And part of that ordering of the world is to consider the ways we are called into Jesus, the Word, enfleshed and moving in the world. You see this prolog is not just about God being with us in the form of Christ, it also
points to social transformation through the embodied presence, Jesus coming to the world. Jesus with us calls us into transformation of ourselves and the world (TBC, 340). The generosity we embody, which we do so well here at St. Paul’s, when we live out the call to love and give to God and one another is one way we do this.
Last year, when our Christmas presents came from our nieces, they Facetimed us while we opened them. As I began to open a small box, Eliza shouted with prophetic and unbridled joy, “I GOT YOU A CAT CUP!”. Knowing my love of cats, she had picked out a mug that read, “purrrrfect aunt” over the outline of a cat’s head. In the cards they sent us, she had snuck in pictures that she made for Phil and I without her parents even knowing. That is my favorite mug, and that art still hangs on our fridge. Last year, that then four year old, helped me to understand more deeply the joy and love of giving to others. She transformed me yet again, as I am sure she always will. I will never forget it. And I will forever be grateful to her for the lesson.
Today we continue to celebrate the birth of Christ, God coming into the world, and as we ponder the presence of the paradox of Jesus who has always been, we are reminded that we are called into relationship to love, grow, and be apart of co-creating the reign of God love and justice in the world. And for me, one of the gifts of this rich and rather robust prolog of John is the paradoxical statements, especially from the first section of this passage. It illuminates for us part of the mystery of faith, and instead of trying to make sense of this, the writer here in this Gospel invites us to live into the paradox, to ponder and explore but not necessarily solve this puzzle (TBC, 340). So, as we sit with this puzzle and celebrate Christmas, how is the birth of Christ calling you into transformation this year? How are you being called to be the light of Christ shining in the world?
Resources: Jewish Annotated New Testament, Theological Bible Commentary, Women’s Bible Commentary