Sermon preached at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2021, based on the readings Hebrews 1:1- 4 and John 1:1-14
May I speak and may you hear through the Grace of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
If you came here this evening hoping to hear a story of heavenly angels, virgin mothers, plodding donkeys, low budget hotels, quaking shepherds, and travelling astronomers then you will be sorely disappointed. We told that story earlier at our Christingle service.
Instead this evening you heard one of the most beautiful passage within the bible given to us from the greatest Christian mystical writer, the gospelist, John. His introduction to the person we are celebrating and worshipping this evening is indeed mysterious and not necessarily something we have to solve, but it is something worth thinking about.
In the beginning…. do those words sound familiar? Indeed they take us right back to the beginning of the bible, to the Book of Genesis, in which is recorded the narratives of God creating the world. Not as a potter moulding stars and creatures out of clay, nor as an engineer building a construction model, but simply by speaking them into existence, ‘God said, “Let there be light” and there was.’
Which brings us to our gospel this evening. In the beginning was the Word. Who or what do we identify as the Word, with it’s capital W?
In the original Greek version of John’s gospel he uses the word Logos, meaning ‘word, speech or utterance’ and in ancient Greek philosophy and early Christian theology it refers to the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning. Here is the divine power that puts sense into the world making order instead of chaos. It is the idea of a word uttered by a living voice to communicate ideas and bring things to life.
Hebrew philosophy has a similar concept and in ancient editions of the Old Testament, in Genesis and Exodus we hear that ‘the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision’ (Genesis 15:1) and that ‘Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet the Word of God’ (Exodus 19:17)
So, we can understand that the Word is far more than the written word, but that it refers to God, the creative power and intelligence which gives life to all things and his connection with the world.
John, was appealing to his readers and to us, to make that connection by saying in essence, ‘You’ve been thinking, talking and writing about the Word for centuries and now I will tell you who He is.’ The Word is God who comes to us in the person of Jesus. He was ‘with God and was God’ an eternal and equal part of the uncreated divine Trinity, indeed the Creator, as through him ‘all things came into being’.
Again, this was not accomplished with a wave of a magic wand and mumbled incantation. The words that were spoken in the beginning were the energy itself that brought about life. Scientifically this makes sense; speech is an audible vibration, and we know that every single thing vibrates. Even objects that appear to be solid to our eyes, are actually made up of vibrating molecules. My scientist daughter would correctly identify it as ‘an interconnected web of electromagnetic vibrational frequencies’ or we could simply call it the ‘life force’
The life force that ignited the spark of creation. A spark that came to dispel darkness and to bring light ‘to all people’. A light that is inextinguishable however much the darkness tries to overcome it. This light was coming into the world, vibrating and pulsing and connecting itself with everything within the world. During our Christingle services, when we pushed the candle into the orange we were symbolically connecting everything to the Light of the World, rooting it deep into the earth. And as we held our candles up in the darkened church we could see how much light was radiating from one small source.
John finally reveals to us who the Word is, if not by name and if we hadn’t already guessed from the hints at the narrative that was to unfold, the testimony of John the Baptist, the rejection of the Messiah by his people, the promise of salvation for those who believe in him.
‘The Word became flesh and lived among us’. This is Jesus, the Christ child. Not some supernatural hologram, but a living, crying vulnerable baby. Who would know exactly what it was like to be fully human. Who would feel joy and happiness, but would also know the depths of pain and sorrow. Who would be fully connected to the world and yet would show us that there was more than this earthly life.
Tonight we stand once more on the cusp as we remember how the darkness of the world was dispelled by the child we have placed in the crib. How that child grew into the man who teaches us how we should live. Who connects us to each other, not just here tonight in this building, but with those we know and love and those whom we don’t know, but who are still part of us. Who calls us to love each other no matter what.
We too can look around our world and see much darkness in it or we can use the light that is deep within us to shine out and cast the darkness away. We can listen to the harsh rhetoric of anger and discord or we can speak words of peace and reassurance. We can stand by and watch the suffering of those around us or we can reach out the hand of friendship and respect. The choice is ours.
It’s true, we have seen his glory and maybe this is a new beginning for each of us. To come to know his grace and truth. To be creators of life and love to all. To be the word that speaks of Emmanuel – God with us – tonight and always. Amen