Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Christmas/ John 1

Post Christmas                  Isaiah 61:10-62:3         John 1: 1-18

Just before Christmas I read this online comment from a man in his 20s The hardest time of the year for me is Christmas Day until March, whenever spring appears. I love autumn, from Halloween to Christmas Eve, but then the season comes to an abrupt end with the exchange of a bunch of stuff, and it's over. Then we get 2 months or so of bleak weather with no holiday charm, except for that atrocious New Year's Eve to really rub it in.”.

It’s a pretty good description of what many people would describe as the ‘Post Christmas blues’. After all the build up to the celebration of Christmas, now it’s over. The crackers are cracked, the bin is full of used wrapping paper, and we’ve almost finished the turkey.

So now it’s more important than ever that we, as the church, try to be heard when we proclaim that the season of Christmas is only just beginning! On Dec 25th we celebrate Christ’s birth, but that means that on every day after that we can continue to celebrate the fact that Christ is here.

Isaiah declares: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
my whole being shall exult in my God”.

But this is not the empty cheering of people who don’t want to lose the Christmas ‘feeling’ just yet. A kind of holy version of ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’. This is the lusty celebration of people who know that everything changed when Jesus was born – that life will never be the same again.

Isaiah foretells the time when God’s people will be blessed by God’s presence in such a tangible way that the whole world will see it:
The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”

What Isaiah promises has come to pass: God’s gift of himself in Jesus at Christmas has changed us forever.
We are blessed by God: given gifts that last  - vindication, glory, a new name given by God himself.  We are as precious and beautiful to God as a crown or a royal diadem.

And the new name that we are given? Sons and daughters of God – beloved children of the almighty.

Because while other gospels want to tell us about the strange circumstances around the birth of Jesus, John’s gospel reminds us of eternal truths:
‘In the beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory’.

Christ is born, God is with us, we see the Lord eye to eye just as we see the crib scenes, the glow of candles, the sparkle of Christmas trees.
Jesus Christ is here – God of this place, ruler of all time, Lord of our lives.
From the very beginning God has planned to come to his world and to relate to his people – and finally he has come in the Word made flesh.

And this leads to a remarkable birth ‘not born of flesh nor of the will of humans, but born of God’. This is not John’s description of how the Word become flesh – it is not about the birth of Jesus at all.
It is John’s account of what happens when people behold the grace and truth of Jesus and his life and ministry, his death & resurrection.

John says of Jesus that ‘to those who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God’. These are the ones with the remarkable birth story – those who have believed in Jesus and so have become children of God.
This extraordinary child is not Jesus - John means you… and me. We are remarkable, precious, beloved of God – we are sons and daughters of God almighty, not born of human will, but by God’s will. We are the most treasured of all God’s creatures – the ones who believe in Jesus, follow him as Lord, and so are adopted into God’s own family.

It’s quite a cure for the Christmas blues – knowing that the gift of Christmas has only just begun. We can begin this new year knowing that we are redeemed – we are made children of God, by the gift of Jesus Christ. 

This gift of God began ‘in the beginning’ – it is part of God’s relationship with the whole world as creator, redeemer & sustainer. It is a gift that never ends, that is new every year, every morning, every moment of our lives. All of our celebrations to this point have brought us to this realisation – that the love of God has been born for us in Jesus, so that we may be born again as children of God.
So let the celebrations continue – to God’s praise and glory.

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