The St. John’s Pulpit
St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204
CHRISTMAS FOR EVERYONE
Gospel of John 1:1-18
Christmastide, January 5, 2020
by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
We are shifting into post-Christmas gear. Trees are by the curb. School begins tomorrow.
(And many students say, “AweMan.”)
These beautiful sanctuary decorations come down this week reminding us how one little girl prayed, “Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”
On Christmas Eve, I asked you to make it Christmas ‘Every Day.’
Last Sunday, I reminded you how the journey of Christmas carries you ‘Everywhere’ with a Vision in the face of Villains guided by God’s Voice.
Today, I encourage you to take the Christmas message to ‘Everyone’ you meet.
Some people suggest the purpose of a sermon is to inform; others say it is to inspire; others propose it is to motivate; and others suggest it is to provide practical, step by step instructions for how to follow Jesus. After studying preaching, speaking with church members and other pastoral ministers, preparing and preaching sermons for decades and prayer about the ministry of the sermon, I have reached this conclusion: pastoral preaching offers various approaches to the sermon all pointing to one primary purpose: to connect God’s Message of Good News with God’s people so as to equip you as Ministers in Daily Life to take God’s Good News into your relationships each week.
Beloved, people all around us need to see the God they cannot see.
People all around us need to be touched by the God they cannot touch.
This is the message of Christmas proclaimed by John’s Gospel introit:
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
You take this message of Christmas with you Every Day, Everywhere to Everyone.
This message of God’s Word becoming flesh and living among us is theological and practical.
FIRST, THE WORD OF THE LORD BECOMING FLESH IS A THEOLOGICAL REALITY.
You are quite aware that Christmas is more than a feel-good season of boxes and bows.
In the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the reality that The Living God is active in history.
To believe in the existence of The Living God is to believe in a world we cannot see or touch.
By our faith in God, we accept reality as more than the tangible; we embrace spirituality.
God’s activity in the life of the world always points us to visions transcending our capacity to understand. Any god that can be fully comprehended is not The Living God.
Long before our scientific age, early Christian theologians debated the identity of Jesus.
If Jesus was divine, did this mean Christians believed in more than one God?
From the second to the fifth centuries, the relation of humanity and divinity in Jesus was a paramount conversation at the first seven ecumenical councils.
They considered Adoption, Kenosis and Docetism before finally settling on incarnation
‘Adoption’ presented the idea that Jesus was a man adopted by God as the messiah.
‘Kenosis’ suggested that Jesus existed prior to his earthly ministry but he emptied himself of his divinity only being able to reclaim it following the resurrection.
‘Docetism’ taught Jesus was exclusively a spiritual being only seeming to have a human body.
The idea which eventually became predominant was ‘Incarnation,’ meaning ‘embodiment.’
The spiritual Word of God spoke creation into existence, established covenants and
inspired prophets. This Word put on flesh and dwelt among among humanity – in a body.
This Living Word of God was a human named Jesus of Nazareth. He was tempted like us.
He experienced fatigue, hunger, thirst, emotions, pain, sorrow, empathy and happiness.
Jesus slept, ate, cried and expressed commitment, anger, compassion and amazement.
God does not merely send to us a list of commandments or propositions; God comes to us!
All of God that could be revealed in one human life was brought to light in Jesus Christ.
This theological concept of ‘Word taking on flesh’ is more than head theory.
In ancient thought, the phrase, ‘Word of the Lord’ or ‘Word of God’ was action-oriented.
God speaks and it is done; God says, “Let there be light” and there is light.
In Jesus, the Word of God takes on flesh showing us how God works compassionately.
As our actions are motivated by Jesus’ actions, we also incarnate God’s love with active faith.
This is because THE WORD OF THE LORD BECOMING FLESH IS MORE THAN THEOLOGICAL.
SECOND, THE WORD OF THE LORD BECOMING FLESH IS A PRACTICAL REALITY.
You are Christians; little Christ’s. The mind, heart and motives of Jesus are shaping your life.
Rather than being Augustiani, followers of Jesus were called, Christiani.
You cannot follow Jesus, as the Living Word of God, without being spiritually transformed.
Because Jesus cared for the poor, the estranged and misunderstood, you do also.
Because Jesus grieved with the sorrowful and embraced the outsider, you do also.
Because Jesus forgave those who caused him pain, you do also.
Because Jesus condemned the legalistic, religious right as hypocrites, you do also.
Because Jesus welcomed the stranger and built bridges of peaceful justice, you do also.
Because Jesus welcomed children, the diseased and sinners, you do also.
Because Jesus had compassion on those who had no spiritual shepherd, you do also.
Because Jesus followed God’s path of servant faith sacrificially, you do also.
Because you follow Jesus, you shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, welcome the refugee,
visit the prisoner, care for the sick, welcome children and work for peaceful justice.
You also search for people who need a church like St. John’s and invite them to be with us.
During World War II, American soldiers were on duty near London on Christmas Day.
Walking among the ruins of bombed-out London, they came across a building named, ‘Queen Anne’s Orphanage.’ After they knocked, a woman came to the door to explain the orphaned children were survivors of the bombings; some the only survivor in their family. The soldiers looked around. Seeing no tree, no decorations or presents, the soldiers started walking among the children whispering, “Merry Christmas” and giving them anything in their pockets or knapsacks – a pencil, a good luck charm, a piece of candy, a pocket-knife, a nickel, a stick of gum. One soldier saw a little boy huddled in a corner and walked to him. As he approached, the boy held out both arms and said, “All I need is a hug.”
Beloved, people all around us need the hug that is the Christmas message.
They need to see the God they cannot see and be touched by the God they cannot touch.
As we allow God’s Living Word, Jesus Christ, to be incarnated through our active faith,
we continue the work of Christmas Every-day Everywhere with Everyone.
Amen and AMEN! Lord, may it be so!