1 Christmas 2014: In the beginning

Many, many thanks to Dr. Carl D’Angio for delivering this experience of God/sermon with me:

Isaiah 9:2-7 Psalm 96 Titus 2:11-14 John 1:1-18
“In the beginning was the Word …”. These familiar words are the birth story from the gospel of John. There are no shepherds, sheep, or angels. There is no journey to Bethlehem, no manger. Not even the wise men make an appearance in these beautiful words. We might wonder what is going on. How is this a birth story? For many years I got sort of tangled in these words, and I wonder if you do, too.

To remember that the gospel of John really does have a “birth” story might be a stretch for our minds. The birth story here is nothing like the story from Luke that we heard on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; it is not like what we will hear from the gospel of Matthew about wise men from the East. Maybe we have to put those stories just a little to the side in order to hear “birth” in John. Maybe John doesn’t have a birth story at all … John’s gospel is more of a “beginning” story …. “In the beginning …”. Is there another beginning with which we are familiar? (Genesis) Yes, sure, the creation stories in the book of Genesis, the first book of the bible. These are our parallel “beginning” stories.

Three gospel writers tell us about how Jesus came to earth in his humanity. Jesus was born mostly just like we are: he was born of his human mother. He came to us as a baby. John reminds us of the other nature of Jesus: Jesus is divine, and more than that, co-eternal with God. “Co-eternal,” which means that God and Jesus have been in existence together forever, since before time … since before creation. That’s a lot for us to “wrap our heads around.” But it is wonderful to imagine God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit creating …

Today we are taking the opportunity to hear a “beginning” story, John’s birth story, in a new way. This is a listening experience, so I’ll ask you to join in as much or as little as you’d like. Be as comfortable and involved as you choose to be. I invite you now to sit back, settle in. (Sit on your sit bones and let you feet move toward the floor. Rest your hands where they are comfortable being.) Take a deep breath: breathe in, breathe out … and another. You may close your eyes, or keep them open. Breathe in, breathe out.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. … And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness.

7[John] came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

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.

In the beginning …
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.

In the beginning …
Was the Word.

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