Here’s the honest truth: the people who chose the readings for this morning expect you all to be the faithful few who interrupt the euphoria of Christmas morning and presents and all of that to come spend time at church and really celebrate the reason for the season, as the bumper sticker puts it. (Frankly, I’m not sure if those who attach such sentiments to their cars actually make it out for a Christmas morning service themselves, but I digress and would rather try to be charitable since it is in fact Christmas Day.) I mean why else would we hear not only from John’s Prologue instead of the birth narrative from Luke but also the first few verses from the book of Hebrews? From that letter we heard: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.” Let’s make no bones about it, we are decidedly theological today because someone figured you all could handle that on a Christmas morn.
And I’m personally struck not only by the declaration from John that the Word became flesh and lived among us, but also this statement from the writer of Hebrews that God speaks to us through the Son. That author describes Christ as the very one who created the worlds and who also reflects God’s glory, bearing the very imprint of God. And so we get to imagine that little babe in the manger, squirming there against the hay, as reflecting all of the glory of the Godhead for us to plainly see. This child, this one born to us, Emmanuel, is lauded by us on this day because of who he is, and because of who he will become. We pause our gatherings around the tree in order to worship this one not simply because of his miraculous birth, but due to the impact that he will continue to have on the world throughout the entirety of his life. Because of his teachings and healings. Because of his words.
It’s through his words that God speaks to us in this time and place. It is through this appointed heir of all things that God speaks to us.
So I’ve been thinking about the words of Jesus this week. The recorded words we have that bring us life and joy, that challenge us and inspire us. That call us to lives of repentance and renewal. Like these: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Or “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Here are a few more: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” In response to this request from a man with leprosy: “‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’”
Again and again the words from the one born on this day show us who God really is. God cares about the intricacies of human life, and not just generic human life, but specific and individual ones. Like the woman caught in adultery to whom he said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Or to Zacchaeus the short little tax collector despised by nearly everyone in his village: “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Jesus uttered these words of resurrection to Jairus’ daughter who had died much too soon: “Little girl, get up!” And to the woman who had endured a hemorrhage for a dozen years, he declared: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Jesus was clever in his use of language, using metaphors to try explain his identity: “I am the good shepherd.” “I am the vine.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” His words were so important, so life-changing to his followers that Peter said to him at one point when asked if they would walk away from following him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Words of eternal life. Words that sustain us, that bring us grace and hope. Words spoken to us in love by the living Word, this one who was made flesh and came to live among us. So he could show us directly how deeply God loves us. That’s the true present this morning.
I hope that wherever you journey over these next 12 days that you recall the words of the living Word. His stories and encouragement, his utterances of healing, and his prayers. His teachings and the pronouncements of mercy. In each of them is found eternal life. Let us continue to worship the one who came on this day with all that we have and all that we are are and allow his words to draw us closer to God.