This morning on this first Sunday after Christmas we hear yet another Christmas story. Only this story from John is different from the nativity story we heard from Luke on Christmas Eve or the nativity story in Matthew. We have no angels, shepherds, or virgin births in stables. Instead, we have the story behind the story. John gives us in our Gospel reading for this morning, the meaning of the nativity stories from Matthew and Luke.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Before there was any creation, before there was matter, before there was light and life there was something, there was a creator, there was a being who had the brains, so to speak, to lay out a plan. Before something was created there had to be something to create it, and from this something, all light and life was created.
Before the world began, Jesus was the Word of God, the mind of God, the brilliance of God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, meaning Jesus, and the brilliant Word, became flesh and lived among us.
So why does this matter? Why is any of this important? Why does it matter to our lives? Well, John is telling us that God did not remain safely up in heaven but instead chose to enter our human condition, a condition that is not all clean and lovely, warm and welcoming as some Christmas cards would have us believe. Indeed, the time and place that God chose to enter this world was perhaps one of the most un-lovely. No antiseptic hospital with nurses and doctors and a mother and father from the wealthy or ruling class, but instead God entered the world in a dirty stable to a pregnant, young woman who was a member of an ethnic group who could not call their country their own. And immediately this new family has to flee a terrible ruler who sought this newly born God-man’s life.
No longer can we say that our God could not understand what it’s like to struggle against the cold, to have to flee to another country, to be betrayed by a friend, to grieve the loss of a loved one, to fear suffering and death, to experience a seeming absence of God. No, our God has truly walked our walk—God’s Word of Love has truly taken flesh.
And Jesus’ words took flesh as well. He didn’t just say “I love you” to the tax collectors and sinners, but he offered them friendship and sat at meals with them. Jesus not only spoke of a God of mercy and forgiveness, but extended that forgiveness to the frightened, the sick and the outcast around him. Jesus not only spoke of God’s kingdom of justice, but he stood in solidarity with the poor and those on the margins of society. He not only spoke of a God who longs for our wholeness, but he touched a leper and healed his skin.
If God has, in fact, become a human being, now it means that we humans can understand more fully that God understands us. God has come out of remoteness to closeness. If God has come to earth to live as we live, then none of our experiences are strange to God. God is not above and outside us, but understands us from within and therefore, can give us grace to help in our times of trouble.
But God become human is also important for a second reason. We humans, now have a way of understanding who God is. We now have a new access to understanding the mystery of the One who stands behind all reality. We can only know about God what God chooses to reveal to us. God, in His great love for us, chose to become one of us and walk among us, and reveal a great deal to us. God, in the event of the first Christmas chose to come across the great chasm that separates the created from the creator and put God’s self in an image that we could understand. God took on visibility. God took on human flesh. And this means that we now have a chance to glimpse deeper into the mystery of God, not because of our powers, but because of the gift of revelation that comes at Christmas.
This is what the Christmas nativity stories are all about. This is what John is telling us about. I know that the stories from Matthew and Luke will always hold more appeal than the story from John. You can’t picture John’s story and you can picture Matthew and Luke’s. But I hope when you hear the nativity stories from now on, you will hold John’s words in your mind as well.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was 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.”
God became what we are, so that we could understand better who God is, and we could believe with all our hearts that God understands what we are and cares about us and loves us more deeply than we could ever imagine, and this has got to be Good News. Amen.