Sermon on First Sunday after Christmas at Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse by Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, Rector


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:1-18)
At the beginning of a New Year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers` New Year`s resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. "Why weren`t my resolutions posted?" She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher`s first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year. (1) I don`t know how you are doing on your New Year`s resolutions. I do know something that is more important than resolutions. These are the life giving words we hear in the Gospel of St. John today:
“But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
This passage from the Gospel opens magnificently. It begins by portraying the life of Christ in eternity, before the world was. That life was rich and glorious, filled with infinite delight and serene blessedness in the presence of the Father. You may notice that it is odd way of telling the Christmas story. It is so different in style than the other writers of the Gospels. Here in the prologue of John`s Gospel, we get no narrative of events. Here we get a cosmic story filled with images of ultimate beginnings, Incarnation, and redemption. It is a much different approach to Christmas. There is no mention of Mary, Joseph and baby in a manger, or shepherds, or wise men from the East. Instead, these powerful words of the Gospel go right in the heart of the matter. It reminds us of God`s entry into this world, and God`s purpose for doing it: that we might become children of God.
St. John’s as an evangelist reaching out to the Hellenistic world which is comprised of non-Jewish people. Christian faith began in Judaism but within thirty years of Jesus’ death it had traveled all over Asia Minor and Greece and had arrived in Rome. The challenge was how Christianity could be presented to non Jewish world that they would welcome and understand the message of the Gospel. St. John who lived in Ephesus found the solution. In both Greek and Jewish thought there existed the conception of the logosâ€"the word. As Professor John Paterson has put it: “The spoken word to the Hebrew was fearfully alive…It was a unit of energy charged with power. It flies like a bullet to its billet.”
For Greeks Logos was not new concept or word. Archbishop William Temple says:
“The Evangelist is not here proclaiming unfamiliar truth; rather he is seeking common ground with his readers. It is of no use to tell the Hellenistic Ephesians that the Messiah is come; they are not expecting any Messiah and would not be interested; it would be like trying to excite an English audience by proclaiming the arrival of the Mahdi.”
In 560 B.C. there was an Ephesians philosopher called Heraclitus whose basic idea was that everything is in a state of flux. Everything was changing from day to day and from moment to moment. His famous illustration was that it was impossible to step twice into the same river. You step into a river; you step out; you step in again; but you don not step into the same river. To Heraclitus everything was like that, everything was in constantly changing state of flux. But if that be so, why was life not complete chaos? How can there be any sense in a world where there was constant flux and change? The answer of Heraclitus was: all this change and flux was not haphazard; it was controlled and ordered, following a continuous pattern all the time; and that which controlled the pattern was the logos, the word, the reason of God. (William Barclay, The daily Study Bible,Pp.34-35).
As a philosophical term, the logos denoted the principal of the universe, even the creative energy that generated the universe. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God” (Jn.1:1-2). John has definitely in his mind the words of the opening of book of Genesis. The Jew will remember that “by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made”; the Greek will think of the rational principal of which all natural laws are particular expressions. â€" To both alike he has announced in language easily received that the subject for which he is claiming their attention is the ultimate and supreme principal of the universe. It exists as it always didâ€"in the beginning, at the root of the universe. ” (William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel p.4-5).
Sunday by Sunday millions across the world confess the common words of their faith know as the Nicene Creed begins with these words:
We believe in one God
the Father, the almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.
By saying these words as on Holy Catholic/universal church we affirm that the Logos is the creator God. The divine creator is the one who takes initiative who calls all things out of nothing into being. At each stage of creation he takes delight: “And God saw that it was good.” And we see the tender intimacy of that picture of God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve, which is surely meant to convey not only the Creator’s delight in his world, but his capacity for sharing his delight with humanity, and the extremely personal relationship that implies. It is a relationship for which the Bible and the Church have used the term “Father.” (George Carey)
It is so assuring to know that God who created and sustains all this infinite glory of the Universe, that God still cares profoundly for us. This God whom we come to know through Jesus Christ He cares for you, for me, righteous, for sinners, for good and bad, for President Bush, for Osma Bin Laden and for late Saddam Hussein. Yesterday, at breakfast I said to Myra, “I wish Saddam Hussein had an opportunity to know the security of God’s creating love and the saving grace of Jesus Christ.” St. John here states an incredible, startling fact: the Word, the power, the principal, the dynamic, the reason that orders and controls the world "has become flesh and dwells among us." John goes on to say that "we have seen with our eyes ... and touched with our hands ... the word of life" (1 John 1:1-2). John`s message is that this Word has come to the earth in human form. God, who was so distant, is now near. John is saying that if you want to see what this creating Word, this dynamic power, then -- look at Jesus of Nazareth. "... In him was life, and the life was the light of all people" (John 1:4).---But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
I pray during th new year one of a new resolution for us will be to behold the glory of Son of God and give thanks to God whose dynamic creating power of the Holy Spirit has enabled us to become the children of God. Amen.

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