Second Sunday of Christmas

Second Sunday of Christmas

John 1:[1-9]10-18

The holy gospel according to John. 
Glory to you, O Lord. 

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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of 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. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The gospel of the Lord. 
Praise to you, O Christ. 

Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Historians have decided history into some different time periods to help them when talking about a a certain span. For instance we have the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Middle Ages, the Age of Discovery, the Industrial Revolution, and where we currently are, the Information Age. I think a perhaps better descriptor of our current age would be the communication age. I mean just think about all the ways we can communicate now days.

It is speculated that verbal communication started anywhere from 10 to 60 thousand  years ago. In Western culture, the first written communication is called cuneiform and was developed by the people in Mesopotamia as early as 8,000 years ago. It consisted of marks made in mud on stone tablets with triangular shaped pens. 

Heiroglyphics, which the Egyptians are known for was probably developed from cuneiform around 3,500 – 3,000 BCE. These were pictures representing words and were originally drawn or painted on stone or ceramics.

The next big step was the invention of papyrus around 2,500 BCE which allowed documents to be stored more easily and transported from one place to another.

Around 1850 BCE the first proto-alphabet  was developed from hieroglyphics. The symbols represented sounds instead of words. Eventually, this was developed into the Greek alphabet, the Hebrew alphabet and others. 

The use of parchment started around 1500 BCE and paper was introduced to the west at around 500 CE.

The first mechanical printing press, the Gutenberg Press, was invented in the 1430’s. This allowed copies of documents to be easily made and shared. Information became more available and ideas more easily spread.

As you can see, the means of communication changed very little for thousands of years. Then electricity was first harnessed in 1821 by Michael Faraday who discovered how to generate it .Things were about to start picking up. The telegraph was invented in 1838 and suddenly, people could communicate over large distances almost instantly.

The first phone was developed by Alexander Graham Bell in the 1870’s and by 1880 there was approximately 1 phone per every thousand people in the US.

Radio waves were first generated in 1887 and the first radio station broadcast in 1920. Not long after, the first television station went live in 1928.

After this, nothing much changed until computers were invented and the ability to network them together happened in the 1960’s. Email was developed around 1971 but didn’t become common until the World Wide Web was invented.

(AV person calls my sell phone and asks, “How long have handheld cell phones been around?”) The first call by a handheld mobile phone was in 1973. They didn’t start to really come into their own until the 1990’s.

The Internet as we know it was invented in 1989 and with it came web browsing and wide spread use of email. 

Soon, the use of the internet and the phone became somewhat merged and now we have text messaging, twitter, instagram, etc…

(AV person puts , “What about Facebook and YouTube?” on screens) Yes, Sandy we also have Facebook and YouTube which we are now broadcasting live on. In fact, we have all kinds of apps we can communicate with, more than I can keep up with.

I think you can see why I think this should be called the communication age. We can communicate with more people in more different ways more easily than ever before in history. 

By now, you’re probably wondering when, with all this talk about communicating, I’m going to start talking about God or sin or Jesus or something. Well, hang on, I’m almost there.

Despite having all these ways to communicate, when we have something really important to communicate to someone, there’s really only one way to do it, face to face communication with our voices or sign language for those who are deaf. When we talk face to face we can see each other’s facial expressions. We can hear the inflections in their voices. For instance, if we read this in a text or email or something, does the person really mean this? “A woman without her man is nothing.” Or does the sender really mean, “A woman: without her, man is nothing.” Just by reading it one can’t tell, but if one can read the body language and hear the inflection, one would know immediately what is meant. And if one of us misunderstands we can quickly be corrected. 

There are somethings that really only be communicated face to face. I mean can you imagine someone proposing marriage using a text message or email? It just wouldn’t fly. Apologies are best given in person. Sometimes we just need the person or persons to understand exactly what we’re saying, good or bad, and the only real to do that is face to face communication.

In our gospel today we are introduced to the Word. It says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the beginning, God spoke the Word and things were created and they were good. Throughout the history of the Israelites, God would occasionally speak to his people.

He spoke with Adam and Eve in the garden. He gave directions to Noah on how to build the ark. He appeared as a person to Abraham and promised to make him into a great nation. He wrestled with Jacob in the wilderness and blessed him.

When the Israelites left Egypt in the exodus, God allowed Moses to see his backside and it had such an effect on Moses that people were afraid to look at him. Whenever he would come out of the tabernacle after speaking to God he had to wear a veil. During this time, God wrote the Ten Commandments in stone to give the Israelites some direction in their affairs. These tablets were quickly broken by Moses in anger at the Israelites and he had to re-write them himself. Soon, these were put into the Ark of the Covenant and then were lost or destroyed during the Babylonian invasion centuries later.

After this, whenever God spoke to his people it was through the voices of  prophets on whom his spirit rested. Sometimes the people listened to the prophets and sometimes, they didn’t. Given the warning messages the prophets often gave the people, it appears that the people didn’t listen more often than they did. 

Now sometimes, the people did listen but it was often selectively. From the beginning it seems, they could follow the parts about ritual hand washing or not eating pork, but they had trouble hearing the parts about how they should treat their neighbors, or the poor, or the widows and travelers in their midst.

Aren’t we often like that today? As Christians we often get self righteous when thinking about how often we attend worship, how often we read or study the Bible, or how rigorous our prayer life is.

During college I was once hitchhiking and was picked up by what we then called a Bible Thumper. The second question he asked me, the first was where was I going, was, “Are you a Christian?” Of course I said yes and started regretting I’d gotten this driver. Then when he asked me how I knew, I told him that I went to church a lot. Well, that gave him a real opening and he preached to me for the remainder of the trip. Thankfully, it wasn’t long.

In my opinion looking back on it, a lot of his theology was sketchy. But he was right about one thing, going to church didn’t make me a Christian. Nor does it make you a Christian.

For the Israelites, Doing all the right rituals and giving all the correct sacrifices didn’t put one right with God if they didn’t treat their neighbors properly. So, in the fulness of time, God decided it was time to get face to face with us, “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.”

No more brief chats with patriarchs, no more rules written on stone that would later disappear, no more prophet intermediaries. God himself came to us in the form of a baby. He grew up among us, going through the same trials and tribulations that any poor Jewish man might have under the authority of of both a harsh Jewish king and the Roman Empire. He lived among us. And when he spoke, he spoke directly to us. Now he did often speak in parables, but that was a common teaching method of the day in Judaism.

I don’t think this desire for God to have face to face time with us was just about telling us how to live better God-fearing lives. It was also about showing us his love, sharing his love with us. He spent way more time showing us how to love each other than telling us how to do it. The God of the universe who appeared to the prophet Isaiah as a King seated on a throne in all his finery surrounded my a multitude of angels, came down to earth to live among us, talk among us, and finally to die among us in a way that was even more personal than when he went walking in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

He came so that we might believe in him and become children of God. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Did you ever notice that it says “God gave” and not “God Sent?” God knew that Jesus would be rejected as it was foretold by Isaiah in the 53rd chapter;

“1 Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.”

The Word made flesh came to live among knowing he would be rejected by his own people. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

The Word came and dwelt among us and though Jesus Christ is no longer physically here with us, his Spirit continues to abide with us, living not just among us, but also in our hearts. I can testify to that because I know the difference the Spirit makes in my life and I can see the results of the Spirit being in your lives. Atitudes are changed, the hungry are fed, the outcast are invited in, and the neighbor is loved. Through his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace. May we continue to do so.

Amen, come Lord Jesus.