Christmas

John 1: 1-18

My favorite passage in the Bible is the prologue to the Gospel of St. John. In it St. John speaks of the showing forth of God’s will in the word. You will remember that it was the word which seized the prophets and compelled them to proclaim the will of God. St. John picks up much of the thought of the prophets and states that the will of God became known in the word which was incarnate in Jesus. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. God has come into the world and met us face to face. Grace and truth and light have come to us in Jesus Christ. This is a profound message. It touches the nature and destiny of the cosmos and of our lives. In the Christmas season we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. We celebrate the birth of one from the lineage of David and one who is truly God’s son. It is a joyful and lyrical occasion. It captures the imagination of our hearts. Over and over the rector and I try to recreate the story of the incarnation for you. But all our attempts are futile if you do not connect personally to this story - if you do not feel hope and joy and new life from the event of the incarnation.

In a few minutes we are going to baptize a baby. It is a poignant moment, full of innocence and profound meaning. I want to tell you a story about a four year old whom I know. I told this story on Christmas Day as well.

Ten years ago I married a couple, David and Jennifer. They moved out of state and eventually had a little boy, Billy. David and Jennifer were occasional church goers. By the time Billy reached the age of four the parents decided they needed to join a church. David and Jennifer joined the local Congregational Church (much to my horror). Billy’s grandmother, Clare, a couple of weeks ago decided to take Billy to church. David and Jennifer were staying in. Billy had already started Sunday School, so Billy felt comfortable in church. When Sunday School was over Clare and Billy went into the sanctuary where Billy showed his grandmother how you were supposed to hold your hands when you pray. Billy was amazed that grandma knew some of the songs, for she had never been to that church with him before. After church Clare asked Billy how he liked Sunday School that day. “Oh, it was fine,” he said. “I liked it a lot.” “Why is that?” asked Clare. “Because it was all about me,” Billy replied. “About you?” Clare said. “Yes,” Billy answered. “They all talked about me. You know, they all talked about the son of David.”

Now I am glad that I did not have to untangle that misunderstanding. The innocence and naivete of a child is something precious. Because Billy’s father’s name was David, Billy thought that the son of David referred to Billy. His assumption is sweet and natural, child-like in its simplicity.

It is easy to cast stones and to say that Billy represents the self-absorption of this generation. Or we can intone that this is an example of the heresy of particularity and subjectivism. But Billy is on to something that we need to remember. The story of Jesus Birth is more than an historical something that happened two thousand years ago. It is not about abstract people or dead people in a dead past. The Christmas Story is about us. It is about God with you and me. It is about new life and new hope. It is about the salvation of each of our souls. Unless you, and I, see ourselves in the Christmas Story as witnesses, receivers and participants then you and I have tragically missed the point and power of the incarnation.

We have in the prayer which is read as the preface for this season the following:

“Because you gave Jesus Christ, your only son, to be born for us, who by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, was made perfect Man of the flesh of the Virgin Mary his mother; so that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin, and receive power to become your children.” (BCP p.378)

Like Billy, you and I are to become children, children of God, full of new life and new hope. The story is for you and me. The story is about you and me.

Today, by the sacrament of baptism, we receive into the household of God Jason ____. He will be made new and given the power of the Holy Spirit. May the new life of Christmas and of baptism grow in him, in his family and in us. Amen.