December 29, 2019

The Word Made Flesh
1st Sunday After Christmas, Year A
Deacon Cindy Roehl

Have you noticed that just this weekend, in many homes and neighborhoods, the decorations have already come down? We have all been waiting a long time, and suddenly, for many, the day has come and gone. Ours is still here because, actually, the wise men haven’t even arrived in the story of Jesus. But for others, in a flash, the stable and manger have disappeared, and with them the donkey and cow and sheep. Everything has been swept clean and there is no sign of star or shepherds or angels or even of Mary and Joseph.

Shops have already begun stripping the Christmas decorations away, after Christmas sales have begun, and you may even notice a few tinsel bedraggled Christmas trees by the curb with the rest of the garbage. It all seems to be over sooner than it began. For many, Christmas, if it is not just about Santa Claus, is only about a baby. To try to imagine Christmas without a baby is like trying to imagine it without Santa Claus.

But we are here, I hope, for the same reasons that John wrote his gospel and the author of the Epistle to the Galatians wrote the epistle. Neither of them make mention of the baby (and certainly neither of them make mention of Santa!) Unlike Matthew and Luke, John begins his gospel, not with the story of a baby, but with his great prologue which roots this Christmas festival in the very act of God’s self-revelation to humanity.

God broke all the bounds of generosity when he sent Jesus into the world as a man: the Incarnation, this great gift of God. There’s probably nowhere in scripture which proclaims with such magnificence this wonderful, generous gift of God out of his enormous love for us than the beginning of Saint John’s gospel.

First it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” And then it says, “And the Word (that Word – that was God) 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.”

These words of John are surely some of the most luminous of the Bible: …And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In the old Latin rite these beginning verses from John were read at the end of every Mass. And all were to genuflect at these words: Et verbum caro factum est. And the Word became flesh–and dwelt among us. Words to be spoken on our knees.

John doesn’t say the Word became a man or a body. He uses a quite startling and almost shocking word: flesh. Have you ever wondered about that? The Greek word sarx, to say without any doubt that in Jesus, God became flesh and blood just like us. In Jesus, God took on the totality of our humanity, which means that he was just like us in every way. He was shaped by a family like us. He grew and had to learn. Luke tells us that he grew in stature and in wisdom. He had the same emotions that we have. He knew pain. He knew anger. He knew anxiety, and he needed human affection – as we do.

For me, this is incredibly important, the fact that he experienced everything that I experience. He knows how I feel and he knows my deepest thoughts, my deepest fears, my deepest hopes. It tells me, and this is so important for my life, that there is no part of my life which I cannot bring to Jesus in prayer…

For the full sermon text, click HERE.