Christmas Eve Sermon – “The Reason for the Season”

John 1:1-14  “The Reason for the Season”

I bet you have heard the saying “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  It is true, from our perspective.  From our perspective Jesus can get lost in the midst of our traditions and gatherings, our gift giving and getting.  Remembering Jesus may be the best thing we can do for ourselves.  And that’s what we are doing today.  But all that’s from our perspective.  I began to wonder, what about God’s perspective on this thing we call Christmas?

From God’s perspective, WE are the reason for the season.  God looked upon our condition and saw darkness in need of light, death in need of life, deep loneliness and longing in need of love.  And so, we are the reason for Christmas.  Christmas is all about God coming to us.

The gospel of John starts his version of the Christmas story by saying, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.”  The Word! In the original language, this word is Logos, which means to take chaos and order it into something meaningful.  We get the English word “logic” for this word.  It is translated as “word” because that’s how God creates and gives life, and takes chaos and gives it meaning. God creates by speaking it all into existence, according to first “word” in the Bible.  Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. John makes the connection by saying, “In the beginning” God’s word – God’s creating, life-giving power – was there and all things came into being through him.

Now that kind of fancy theological talk is all well and good, but it still leaves God out-there, in the realm of theory and ideas, not in the realm of relationship.  And so God gives Christmas to us.  John proclaims that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and full of truth.”  It is a reference to Jesus, who from our perspective in the reason for the season, but from God’s perspective is the one sent to us because we need to know that God is with us, and that God will see us through.  From God’s perspective, we are the reason for Christmas.

So, I want to push us a little more into the deep implications of this gift from God. By our logos or logic, we like to divide and compartmentalize.  This means we even like to keep God up-there, so to speak, and out of our daily business.  It’s just more comfortable and easy that way.  We come to church for a dose of spirituality.  Then we go out-there and live our lives.  We see a thread of connection, but by our logic, we can too easily keep these dimensions in separate compartments. By this human logic, we separate sacred and secular, spiritual and worldly, soul and body.

And here’s where this logic can get us in trouble.  When we do feel the need to be more spiritual then we often think that we must be less human, less worldly.  We might think, “If only I could get away from all that worldly stuff, then I might be able to see God.”  That way of thinking, that form of logic, is so engrained in our culture, but then Christmas comes.  God’s logos, God’s logic, breaks in. For Christmas people, spirituality is recognizing that God enters into our lives — into the mess of it all, into the joys of it all, into the pain of it all. God wants to share gifts of light, love, and life right there in the midst of it all. That’s where we need to look for these blessings – right in the very midst of our daily lives.

Here’s the good news of Christmas.  God wants to make a home right here (heart) and fill this home with light, with a light that illuminates true love and life, as John’s Gospel says, a light that will guide us into the world to shine and to share these same blessings.  This light is so powerful that no form of darkness or no form of death can overcome it.  That’s the blessing of Christmas.

At Christmas, from our perspective, we love to shine the spotlight on Jesus and say look, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  Today (Tonight) let us know that God shines the light of heaven on us and says, “Oh how I love you.”  “You are the reason for it all.”  Amen.

Breaking Bubbles

img_0515A couple of weeks ago, our church received a call from a person doing grad school research on how people of different opinions interact or fail to interact with one another. Her research focused on the information bubbles that we can all too easily get trapped in.  We watch news that caters to our opinions.  And if we use the internet or social media for information, then over time, computer algorithms figure out what we want to hear and then feed us with that information. If we are not careful, we can easily get trapped in our own, personalized, information bubble and begin to see that as reality.

Now, why did this researcher call us?  She called because, at a conference in New York City, she got into a conversation with someone who grew up in our church and who had suggested to her that, at least in his experience, FUMC in Conway, Arkansas was a place where he could break through these bubbles and connect with others in a spirit of respect and love.  It was a place where his perspective grew through interactions with others.  He shared this story and she was intrigued.  She was in search of places where connections were being made in the midst of a world that pushes us all into our own individual information bubbles.  Now, she was considering at least some churches as places where this might happen.

As we encounter him during worship this Advent season, John the Baptist calls us to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” In the Greek, the word is metanoia – meta meaning “beyond” and noia meaning “to know.”  Repentance is to know or perceive from a perspective above our current perspective.  It means to allow our minds to be changed or transformed by a higher perspective. It is the key to being able to see and experience the kingdom of heaven that is right before us, if only we are willing to look up.

Building on the story above, we might say that repentance happens when we engage others in a spirit of respect and love and through these encounters begin to see life from a higher perspective – bigger than ourselves and our own opinions.  As a possible exercise, think of an issue where you have a strong opinion but you know faithful Christians who have a different opinion.  Then spend time understanding this other perspective, perhaps even making a case of it in your own mind.  If this doesn’t alter your opinion, the hope is that it will alter your appreciation for the other. As we seek to understand, rather than just defend our positions and demonize others, that’s when we begin to see Jesus in our midst and God’s kingdom at work. That’s when we get a glimpse of true love – love that is patient and kind, never insisting on its own way, always seeking what is good for the other and how we might honor them.  We can’t do that if are stuck in our own bubble.

These thoughts will be part of my sermon this Sunday, which is a Communion Sunday. It struck me how this holy act invites us to literally change our perspective.  We get up, come to the Altar, with hands held open, ready to receive Christ into our being.  As we bow down and receive we are also lifted into a higher vision. Even as we pray, God pours out the Holy Spirit upon us.  We become One with Christ, One with each other, and One in ministry to all the world. And then, with the strength given, we go out into the world to live this mystery of faith.

During this season, we are invited to move into this higher vision, even with our posture and posturing. We are invited to move from arms crossed to open hands.  We are invited to move from looking down at our screens to looking up into the eyes of others.  As we do this, may we truly enter the kingdom of heaven which is right before us, in our very midst.

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