12.25.22, Christmas Day (track 3, John 1:1-14) The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector
Merry Christmas! What a gift it is to receive Jesus at any moment in our lives, and a rather special gift to celebrate his breaking into the world on Christmas. To celebrate receiving this child who will grow to teach us to live lives steeped in love, justice, peace, care for the vulnerable, and to be people who push relentlessly against the status quo… my heart sings!
I also want to honor that this day might bring up many different feelings. Those that are joyful and those that are connected to sadness. I pray that no matter where your own heart is today, that the gift of celebrating Jesus is balm to your heart. That you feel God’s love enveloping you like a big warm hug. And that you are able to claim anew that you are a precious, beloved, holy being. On this day that centers children, I am reminding you that you too are a child of a God who desperately wants to cradle you tenderly just as the baby Jesus was cradled on this holy day.
One of my all time favorite Christmas invitations came from a sermon that I heard a colleague deliver some years ago. This preacher told a story about how they were taught to receive Holy Eucharist as a child. They were told to gently hold their hands out in front of them, and to make a cradle for Jesus to be held in. To make their hands into a gentle yet strong place for the Lord to rest. And in doing so, would receive not just the physical representation of Jesus, but also the spirit of Jesus into their heart. It touched me as a deeply personal and caring way to pause in the moment of Eucharist that can become rote to us, and to enter in with intentionality. With intimacy that connects us to the Divine and all the Communion of Saints. Just as God intentionally entered into a new way of relationship with humanity through the incarnation of the Son. It is an image that I have reflected on many times in the years since. It has helped me to sit in wonder at what it means to truly welcome Jesus into my heart time and time again, and especially on these holy days of Christmas.
If you were here or watched worship last night you have heard other tellings from the various Gospels of the inbreaking of incarnate God starting with the birth of Jesus. But this morning, we turn our hearts to John who begins with this cosmological prologue that includes John the Baptist. The Gospel of John has the highest Christology compared to the other Gospels, meaning Jesus comes across as the most holy, divine, incarnation of God. We know that John was written later than the other canonical Gospels. It was likely written to a Christian community that included women in leadership and is a community that found themselves somewhat alienated from its foundation of its beliefs in Jesus.
As Mary Lee read this Gospel’s telling of the actualized representation of God in the world, we are reminded by John that the Word has always been. God created through God’s Word (FOTW, 140). The Word in the beginning is an expression of God’s eternal love for all of creation and especially for humanity (FOTW,140). This is affirmed in the Word that became flesh, to literally embody our own humanity and show us ways to walk in love. And here in John we get a particular sense of Jesus’ arrival in cosmological terms, and not by way of Mary and Joseph’s human connection (JANT, 157).
One of the biggest things I think we are meant to feel in this prologue of the Gospel of John is that, “God is made known in the enfleshed life of the Word in the world, and that life is one of fullness and grace. This contrasts sharply with themes of sacrifice and emptying, common in other New Testament writings and later Christian traditions.” (WBC, 518). Many times in our lives it can be tempting to become so self sacrificial that we forget that Jesus has already spilt that blood of sacrifice. In fact, it is that sacrifice that brings us to celebrate his birth today.
So let me say this part again, “life is one of fullness and grace”. We are not called to be Jesus, we are called to be John the Baptists, “whose lives testify to God’s light and love in the world” (FOTW, 142). We are called to be a people who believe, proclaim, and say to one another, “You are God’s gift and I see God’s light in you”. And that is just one of many ways in which we can live into the fullness and grace of the gift of Jesus. That is the gift we are being given today. With the birth of Jesus Christ, we are given the chance to live a life abundantly full and dripping in grace.
In a few moments, we will celebrate the Eucharist and as you hold out your hands to cradle that wafer, just as Baby Jesus was cradled, I want you to imagine that you are holding Christ and bringing the divine into your own being. As you do so I invite you to consider how are you receiving the gift of Christ this Christmas? How are you living into John’s invitation to experience the incarnate Christ as fullness and grace? How are you being and becoming the voice of John the Baptist testifying to the glory of the light shining in the world?