Greetings Narrow Gate,
Christmas blessings to you all. I miss our Narrow Gate worship and I miss each one of you. I recently read a report that said by May of 2021, this pandemic might finally be drawing to a close. Vaccines and effective treatments will be readily available to those who need them most. These will then have a cumulative effect upon our herd immunity that will slow the spread of this virus. Whether or not this is true, I cannot say for sure. But I will surely be praying for this. Join me in praying for such an outcome.
I love the vibe and the trappings of Christmas. Family and church traditions, passed down through generations, lovingly linking us to those no longer with us. Many of these traditions we will not be able to enjoy this year. I know at Harmony UMC, the church that I pastor, we will not be decorating the way we normally do. Our fellowship will be limited. This is a bummer. However, I refuse to grieve. Covenant with me will you? Let's not be the ones complaining. Let's not be the people who are whining.
For what we celebrate at Christmas every year still holds true! God, in an epic, glorious and yet simple and heart rending way, came down from heaven and became one of us.
One of my favorite traditions at Christmas is the Candlelight Service. I know this is a favorite also for many of you. The scripture that we are going to look at today is usually a part of the Candlelight Service, so it is familiar to most of us. Just like a green bean casserole or our favorite pie, it is to most believers, comfort food. John 1:1-2,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning."
The Word, by definition, to the Greeks could mean a several things (from NIV footnotes):
*The spoken word
*The unspoken word, the word still in the mind, the reason.
*When applied to the universe, the Greeks meant the rational principle that governs all things. The reasoning behind how the universe works.
So, when we say "Jesus is the reason for the season", there is actually more than one meaning. Pretty cool, huh? If you don't get this, refer back to our look at the mind of Christ.
Sure, Jesus is the obvious (for believers) reason for our celebrations during Christmas. It's his birthday. Or rather, the day we have chosen to celebrate his birthday. But, if we too, have the mind of Christ, should we not think or understand this season differently from the rest of the world. The obvious example is that Christmas is more spiritual than material. Don't get me wrong, I like presents and pies very much. But we process Christmas differently when we have the mind of Christ.
Now for the Jews, The Word hearkens back to the Old Testament, where the term was used to refer to God.
So, John, was using a term that spoke to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
Then John used the phrase with God. Jesus was distinct from the Father. And then John uses the phrase was God. Jesus was God in the fullest sense. So, the Word was God and with God from the beginning of everything. John 1:3-5,
"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
Jesus was life and is life. Remember, that when we are talking about Jesus and life, we are talking about eternal life. An extended life on a dark and sinful world does not interest me very much. However, eternal life with the Father and my brother Jesus in heaven, well, that is very much of interest to me. John 14:6,
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
The eternal life that Jesus brings to mankind is through his death and sacrifice on the cross. Without Jesus there is no eternal life. Without Jesus' death and resurrection there is no eternal life through Jesus.
The Christmas story and the Easter story work together to create the greatest story ever told. This is the most startling event in the history of the world, the first advent of Christ. Christ cannot get onto our cross without Mary and Joseph and the manger in the little town of Bethlehem. The life that is in Jesus speaks to both his Creation power and his Resurrection power. Jesus can make us, heal us, die for us and be resurrected for us. His resurrection is our resurrection. All because in him is life.
That life in Jesus was also the light of mankind. John 8:12,
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
As we follow Christ, we reflect his light, adding to his incandescence. Also, Jesus did not die for a select group of people, Jesus died for all. He will give that eternal life, the light of life, to any who believe in him. Jesus isn't cherry picking the best from among mankind, he's taking all of us, if we choose to follow him. Jesus' light is the light that always shines in the darkness, giving mankind an eternal hope for eternity.
The darkness will never overcome his light. We always have hope, no matter how lost we may seem. John 1:14,
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
The Word existed before he became a man, even from the beginning of all things. Jesus was flesh, like you and me, though different, because he was sinless, sinless because he was holy, but also sinless for a purpose. That purpose being the cross. Grace in corresponding Hebrew terms can be translated as unfailing love. That same love that held Christ onto the cross. Truth, because Jesus is the truth.
Why did the Word become flesh? The word became flesh for you and me, that's why. So that we would have access to heaven and eternal life.
As we all celebrate Christmas a little differently, maybe God is wanting us to reason Christmas differently than what we have done in the past. If God is really God, and we really believe what we say we believe, maybe God is really making things different, for a reason.
As we focus on Jesus as the reason for the season, maybe we can be more spiritual and less materialistic. Could some of us be more patient and less stressed? Do we have the ability to be more concerned with others than with ourselves? This could be the year that we redefine giving and receiving in our lives. This could be the Christmas that changes Christmas forever, for the better. Every new Christmas for us is an invitation and an opportunity to be more like Christ.
Isn't that why the Word became flesh?
Merry Christmas Narrow Gate, do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC