Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sermon for 02 January 2011, Second Sunday after Christmas

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

John 1:1-18

The Word
Second Sunday after Christmas, 02 January 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
For a Lay Reader

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

            What a rich passage of Scripture—elegant and profound, yet so easily understood by faith. But, unless you have a Christmas sunrise service, you don’t have the opportunity to see this as a sermon text unless there is an extra Sunday after Christmas. Like this year—today.
            On Christmas Eve, of our nine lessons that went with nine carols, this was the ninth. This text summed up the meaning and implications of the other eight. Today is the ninth day of Christmas. Many of our neighbors have taken their lights and trees down. What does the Babe of Bethlehem mean now, when all the Christmas bills start pouring in? What does Jesus have in store for His Christians when it’s back to business starting tomorrow? In short, He has His Word here to bless you.

            In the beginning was the Word…That says quite a bit. That’s Genesis 1:1 talk. Together, John 1 with Genesis 1, we have God the Father, the Holy Spirit of God and God the Son all present at creation.
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. If we weren’t clear before, this nails it down. The Word, the Son, is divine, God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. The Second Person of the Trinity was Himself active in creation, not just a bystander, not a creation Himself. Jesus, too, is creator.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This is why Evening Prayer begins, Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome. No matter what kind of darkness threatens you, your Lord Jesus is with you and can never be overcome.
The Word is important. The Word was God. The Word is Jesus. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. Each of our officers, elders, teachers, musicians, etc., not to mention all of our congregation members, should be invovled in a group Bible study here at Emmanuel in addition to their responsibilities and service. How can any of us expect to feed others if we are not fed ourselves? Service in the church can be wearying. Let us keep our eyes focused upon Jesus, and where He has promised to be in Word and Sacrament.
The Word is the life. The life is light. Do you ever get down, feel unmotivated, exhausted, tired? Do you ever feel dark inside because of your own sins or all of the evil or tragedies in the world like the tsunami? The Word of God is what you need. Jesus promises to be with two or three gathered in His name. Jesus is the Word. When you read the Word, Jesus abides with you, too.
The Word will convict you of your sin, yes, but will also point you to Christ who kept the law perfectly and took away your sin. The Word shows that evil has been with us since the garden. The Lord has promised to be with us no matter what. He will protect His Christians, even if it means bringing them home to Himself. The Word promises rest to the weary, comfort to the mourning, and forgiveness to the repentant. The Word tells of our purposes of being in this world: receiving the Lord’s gifts, loving Him, and serving Him best by serving our neighbors and telling them the Good News About Jesus.
I encourage all of you to consider coming to the fourth Wyoming District Tell the Good News About Jesus convocation in Casper January 28-29. More details will be available in your boxes and bulletins in coming weeks.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
John the Evangelist introduces John the Baptizer, the forerunner. You’ll hear more about him next week. He is a witness to Jesus, the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
This fits what we know about Jesus’ own people. Some believed and fell away. Some never believed, but looked instead for opportunities to trap Him in His own words or in Roman chains. Others believed and spread the light to those living in darkness.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
This text speaks about faith holding onto the object of faith, Jesus. Those who believe are children of God, born from above, born again by water and the Spirit. How is this done? It isn’t by deciding to follow Jesus—that would be the will of the flesh. It isn’t by compulsion—that’s the will of man. Being a child of God isn’t by blood—you can’t believe for your children or grandchildren. Christians are born of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. This is the mystery of the incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. We dare not be ashamed that our Lord was true man. That meant He could die for you and your salvation. Yet, this true man was also divine. The Word was God. Pagan religions talked about Zeus taking on human form for his own selfish purposes, but the Christian God, Jesus, did so for your good. That’s unique in all religious philosophies. Christianity is more than unique. It is uniquely true.
And Jesus dwelt among us. He didn’t just pop into a human body one day, die on the cross and rise physically. He lived from conception to birth, through childhood and adolescence, and was thirty when He was baptized in the Jordan by John. Jesus has a perspective on humanity that only a human could have. He didn’t do what was convenient to Him. He did it all for you. He dwelt among us.
And there’s a richness to that word translated, “dwelt.” It is connected to the Old Testament word for tent or tabernacle, the portable temple the people of God carried with them through the wilderness, the time of Joshua and the judges, until the time when King Solomon built the Jerusalem temple. Both Temple and tabernacle were the presence of God with His people. And now, in Jesus, there is no need for a temple of stone because Jesus is tenting, ta-ber-na-cling, dwelling with His people in our human flesh.

(John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.' ")
John testifies to the eternity of Jesus, his younger cousin by six months according to the flesh.

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
Mercy is undeserved pardon, when we are not given the punishments we do deserve. Grace is undeserved favor, when we are given good things we do not deserve. Not only are you given the washing of rebirth in Holy Baptism, but the Lord keeps you clean through daily sorrow for sin, repentance, and the daily washing of absolution. You are fed by His Word, life, and light that is Jesus, Son Divine, but you also regularly feast on His Body and His Blood which keeps you in the true faith, body and soul, sins forgiven, until everlasting life. Grace upon grace.
The law was given through Moses. The two tablets haunt us because we don’t measure up. The law is also written upon our consciences. The law promises eternal life to those who keep them perfectly. That’s not going to happen to any one of us. Left only with the law, people either tend toward despair, since perfection is unattainable, or they drive themselves furiously into a mental breakdown, ignoring their real sins, trying to be self-righteous. You can often see the symptoms in your neighbors. But is that all the Lord wrote? No.
The Gospel shall predominate. That’s what we listen for. Here is Comfort. Here is Jesus, grace and truth that come only in Him. Only Jesus could perfectly keep the law given to Moses. Only He could pay the price for all of the sin of all people of all time. Only Jesus could be what He claimed to be, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Only Jesus. And He gives you His gifts.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he [Jesus]  has made him known. Origen, in the third century, had a great analogy. He told of a village with a huge statue—so immense you couldn't see exactly what it was supposed to represent. Finally, someone miniaturized the statue so one could see the person it honored. Origen said, "That is what God did in his Son." Paul tells us Christ is the self-miniaturization of God, the visible icon or image of the invisible God (Colossians 1). In Christ, we have God in a comprehensible way. In Christ, we have God's own personal and definitive visit to the planet.
Citation: Dale Bruner, theologian, "Is Jesus Inclusive or Exclusive?" Theology, News, and Notes of Fuller Seminary (October 1999), p. 4

That’s the whole point of the New Testament. That’s what Old Testament salvation history has been pointing toward. It’s all about Jesus. God. In the flesh. For you.
This week, open up your Bible at home and read through the first five verses of the Gospel according to St. John. Don’t just rely on your bulletin. Find your personal Bible, dust it off, and open it up. The first five verses of John are well worth memorizing because of the comfort they bring in time of need.
For every Christian, in the beginning was the Word. The Word brought you to faith, either the read, shared, or proclaimed Word, or the water of Holy Baptism included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. For the Christian, the Word of God will continually nourish your faith. Daily reading is more than a resolution for a new year. It is new life for the rest of your life.

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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.