Stream services online at www.sjlc.com/live

December 25, 2023

Word!

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary Category: Biblical Scripture: John 1:1–14

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day

December 25, 2023

John 1:1-14

“Word!”

Way back when I was in college, one of the courses I took explored the use of language, how it changes over time, and how our use of words and their meaning also changes. I even remember the phrase used to describe this process: functional shift. I can’t believe that I remember this, but I do. There are likely many more important things that I should remember, but don’t. That’s how it can be in life. In the nineteenth century, it was commonly held that a man’s word was his bond. This meant that if you were a person of integrity, your words would match up with your actions. You could be trusted to do what you said. Your word was your bond. “This affirmation got solidified and expressed through text over and over, until the idea of ‘word’ became synonymous with ‘I agree, you have my word’” (What Does "Word." Mean in Slang? (Helpful Examples) (grammarhow.com). From this has comes the modern slang, “Word!” So if you hear someone say, “Word!”, this means that they’re in full agreement with what the other person has just said. For example, I say, “I just love Christmas! It’s the best time of the year.” And in response you say, “Word!” I say, “St. John’s is a wonderful congregation. I love my church!” And in response you say, “Word!” I say, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). And in response you say, “Word!” Today on this blessed Christmas morning, it’s all about the Word – the Word who really did become flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Based on the Gospel reading for today, the sermon is entitled “Word!” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

Everything looks different in the light of day, doesn’t it? The images of Christmas Eve - soft candlelight and cozy manger – give way to harsh reality in the light of Christmas Day. The Lord of the universe, the One who made heaven and earth, is unhoused and spending the first days of his life in the midst of all the sights, sounds and smells of farm animals. Remember as children when we would leave the front door wide open, summer or winter? Dad or mom would yell from inside the house: “Were you born in a barn? Shut the door!” That is actually true with Jesus – he was literally born in a barn, a stable, a manger. We may have romanticized notions about what this was like based on artistic license and Hallmark cards. But having grown up on a farm, I’m here to tell you that the barn, the stable, the manger is not the best place to have an infant. But this is how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us: in naked poverty and great need. No trace of heavenly majesty or glory here. The words of John’s Gospel tell the unvarnished truth: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). But why? Why didn’t his own people receive him?

Jesus, the Word made flesh, didn’t fit the bill. His own people didn’t receive him because he was not what they expected the Messiah to be. They were looking for a powerful warrior king who would restore the glory days of David and Solomon; who would give the boot to foreigners and outsiders. They had their hopes set on an earthly kingdom of outward prosperity and wealth. That’s not who and what the Word came to be. Instead of a warrior king, Jesus came to be the Suffering Servant who would give his life on the cross. And what about us? What are we looking for the Word to be in our own lives today? That long ago hope for a Messiah who will bring back the glory days, who will remove people who are not like us, who will make us healthy, wealthy and wise is alive and well in the hearts and minds of many people. Like the people of Jesus’ day, we are guilty of trying to put God in a box; of making him in our own image. And yet, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). In the midst of the darkness of our misplaced expectations, of our telling God how to do his job, of thinking that it’s all about us – the light shines in the darkness. The Word made flesh tells us: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus, the Light of the world, the Word made flesh, came to dwell among us; to be one of us; to identify with the human race so fully that he would experience all that we experience – the joys and sorrows, the frustrations and disappointments, the ups and downs of life. He would become like us in every respect, except for sin (Hebrews 4:15). The little word “dwell” in verse 14 is an important word. The original word here (έσκήωσεν, from the root σκηνόω) means “to live in a tent… to take up one’s temporary dwelling place… The flesh of Jesus Christ is the new localization of God’s presence on earth; Jesus is the replacement of the ancient tabernacle” (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Rienecker/Rogers. Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library/Zondervan, 1980; pp. 218-219). And so the focus of our worship of God is not in a place, but in a Person – the Person of Jesus Christ, son of God and son of man, who came to dwell among us, to suffer and die for us as payment for all our sins, and to rise again in triumph over death and the grave. By his dwelling with us, we have been given not just the hope, but the certainty of the forgiveness of our sins and life eternal. This is what brings us true and lasting joy. When the Christmas celebration has passed, when the company has returned home, when the decorations have been put away, the joy of Christ, the Word made flesh, continues to be our source of life and truth.

Today, this same Word made flesh who was born in Bethlehem, who lived, died, and rose again, comes to us under forms of bread and wine to give us his very Body and Blood in his holy Supper. He tells us: “Take, eat; this is my body… this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). He comes to dwell with us; to make our hearts his own dwelling place so that we might be his own beloved children. Christ in us and we in Christ – this is our Christmas joy. Word! Amen.

 

other sermons in this series

Apr 7

2024

A New Beginning

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: John 20:19–31 Series: Lectionary

Feb 11

2024

Jesus Only

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 9:2–9 Series: Lectionary

Jan 7

2024

Star and Dove

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 1:4–11 Series: Lectionary