Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sermon for January 14

The Reading
John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me  My hour has not yet come."
 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
Jesus said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward."
So they took it.
When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom
and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.  But you have kept the good wine until now."
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The message

When I started here at our church a little more than 8 years ago, one thing (amongst many) that I was completely unprepared for were the children’s church services that we do at our Rainbow Christian Preschool every week.  I had worked with teenagers, young adults, even some years with 4th and 5th graders but never 3 and 4 year olds.  I had no idea how it would go and I was not exactly eager or enthusiastic about finding out.  I reached out to the teachers, the staff at Rainbow and several pastors in the neighborhood that had preschools connected to their churches to find out what I was supposed to do. A lot of people gave me great advice, ideas, encouragement and suggestions.  I was directed to some great resources, websites and others to speak with,

The worst advice, the one thing that I still remember hating and going “uh, I don’t think so” has to do with today’s gospel reading about the Wedding at Cana.  It was the big example that people told me to do.  All you needed to show the children what happened there in Cana all those centuries ago was a few glass jars and a packet or two of red Kool aid.  You could tell the story and then when the big moment came, the transition of water into wine, all you had to do was distract the kids for a second and stir in your Kool aid powder. If you were quick enough and your distraction was good enough, you could turn water into wine and they would not even notice your little helper.  It would turn the water a color close enough to wine and the kids would all ooh and ahh over the miracle they just saw.

I guess I just never drank the kool aid on this one. It never felt quite right to me.  Taking this first miracle in John’s Gospel and making it seem like little more than a magic trick seemed deceitful and just a bad way to start teaching people about God. I get that it’s a cool thing to see, I understand that your average or even above average 3 year old is not well versed in the social and political landscape of the early 1st century, that kindergarteners do not know the background, structure and context of John’s Gospel particularly well.   At the same time, there is so much more than a magic trick going on here.  John’s entire Gospel only contains 7 miracles presented to show people the evidence that Jesus is the messiah, the word of God made Flesh and dwelling amongst us.  Each one is very important, revealing something about God and showing us evidence that Jesus is God with us,   

We sang the first noel for our opening hymn.  I made that choice because today’s reading is basically an Epiphany moment in John’s Gospel.  There are several epiphanies in Johm, times when the world starts to figure out who exactly it was born on Christmas. In many ways, it’s the focus of the book.  In Matthew, this happens when the kings, astronomers or magi follow the star and bring the new born Christ gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (symbolizing that Christ is king, to be worshipped and will suffer).  In John’s Gospel, an epiphany happens here at this wedding in Cana, Jesus first followers and family realize that Christ is King, to be worshipped and will suffer (a lot of people note that turning water into wine happens on the third day, the same amount of time that it will take Jesus to turn death into life). 

 This wedding celebration is held a few quick days after Jesus promised his new followers that they would see great things. They are the ones who would open their eyes to come and see and then open their mouths to witness, testify and convert others. In this miracle, Jesus revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. This is the first of those great things they would see.

This first miracle certainly mattered a lot to the wedding hosts. In this time, throwing a wedding feast was caring for a community and your guests.  Wine was central to this, It wasn’t just social lubricant or a party enhancer. Wine was a sign of blessing, abundance and harvest.  To run out of wine was a very big deal. Do God’s blessings run out, no, well neither does the wine. Jesus bails out the hosts of this wedding.  To be honest it wasn’t exactly global news.  This is a very local story, one that would be covered by the ancient equilivant of a local paper or regional tv station, not the NY Times, wall street journal or CNN. 

Even the actual work is not that great.  I mean, in the events leading up to the exodus, the freedom from slavery for the people of Israel, Moses and Aaron turn all the water in Egypt to blood.  I could come close to replicating this with kool aid and im sure most magicians could easily do this as a trick with a few specially prepared props.  All Jesus does here is changes a few pails of water into wine, The greatness in this story is the result, this local act of sympathy and kindness reveals that Christ our savior was born on Christmas. 

I have been thinking a lot about small things and how they can add up to something much greater. Throughout the week, I have been preparing a speech or message for the Habitat for Humanity Restore as part of their Martin Luther King day of service.  I plan to talk about a series of small things.  At the store, there is a diverse and dedicated group of voluneteers who each do a small thing or two. Some make those shelves of glasses and cups and vases look good ( a skill I never got), others spot antiques, help customers, nudge an interested but hesitant buyer, offer great layout ideas or bring in new customers.  After lifting up the work of the volunteers, I plan to talk about one item I purchased   It’s a beautiful dining room table and chairs, Canadian maple I think (assuming the stamp on the bottom is real). I saw it, took my wife in to look at it and we both loved it, so we donated /dropped off our old table and chairs and bought it.  The first few weeks we had the table, we were afraid of using for much, we didn’t want to damage the wood, stain or scratch it.  We didn’t want it to be a computer desk, paper and key storage, a coat rack or anything like that (the fate of the old table).  There were lots of rules, use a coaster, do not lean back on the chairs, wipe up any spills or dropped food right away. After a while, we started to eat small meals at the table, very carefully.  Slowly, I started to keep papers on it, just stuff I needed right away, only for a few minutes, then the keys and wallet, then bags, then coats, gloves, hats, and backpacks started to appear on the chairs

We are still careful but now it feels natural to toss my coat on the table or pick up my books and papers for the day.  The table went from a thanksgiving dinner only to being used whenever we have too many people to fit on the kitchen table, a reserved for special occasions object is now for everyday use.  That is at the heart of Martin Luther King Jr’s faith and work,   It starts with small, simple things: actions like marching or walking together, not buying a particular product or using a particular service, ideas like everyone is a child of God and deserves a seat on the bus, a place at the food counter, the right to cast a vote, a seat in a college classroom, a seat at the table where decisions are made.  Here a series of small things changes America.  Things are now part of daily life for many of us.  This came from working together, being together, seeing one another as children of God and in this together.  We are daily changing hate and mistrust into love.  Changing separation into unity. 

Next week, we (well you, I won’t be here) see what happens next, now that the good news is out, Jesus jumps head first into confrontation with the religious authorities, chasing the money lenders out of the temple (a group of approved vendors ripping off worshippers).  Zeal, passion, once Jesus gets that glimpse of how things should be vs how the are, he must act.   Just like Jesus turns water into wine, the temple back into a temple and death into life, we must remember change starts here (where it goes is up to God) 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sermon for January 7th

John 1: 35 - 51

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!"
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?"
They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 
Jesus said to them, "Come and see."
They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon.  
One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed ).
 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter ).
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."
 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."
 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
Philip said to him, "Come and see."
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!"  
Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you."
 Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
 Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these."  And Jesus said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."  

The message

Today, we can really experience what is going on in this reading, in the calling of Jesus first handful of followers.  They are the ones who answered the question “what are we thinking” with faith and hope.  I found myself asking “what I am thinking” a lot recently

On New Year’s Eve, Jen and I went to the city for a few hours.   We went to 42nd street to eat at a restaurant we liked and do some food shopping for New Year’s morning. We assumed it was early enough that things would not be closed yet.  The place we wanted to eat was closed, the second, back up place we wanted to go to was also closed, the supermarket we anticipated going to was closed and much of the area was already shut down for security reasons.  We ended up walking about a mile downtown, found a place and open market.   As we walked in the freezing cold and wind, I wondered what brought us out there that night, why we couldn’t just sit home in the warm house.  Part of it was I grew up being told what you did on New Years would be what you did all year. I was never sure if that meant new years eve or new years day but I didn’t want to risk spending the year staying home just because of uncomfortable weather.  Part of it was I didn’t want to miss something, a lot of new years eve Jen and I have had some wired, good or memorable experiences. We wanted to come and see what was happening. Another part was I knew New Years Breakfast was important to Jen and we wouldn’t easily find what she wanted in our neighborhood.

This Friday, I had to wait for a delivery for our food pantry.  As I walked to Bethany to wait for the truck, it was cold, probably colder than new years. I wondered why I was doing this too.  Again why I left the warm house to walk through the post blizzard community and get a delivery that could wait. The next pantry is not until January 20th, so I could just move the delivery date.  I knew it was important to the grant coordinator at LSS to have this food delivered by Friday, it would make his life a lot easier, I knew the food wholesaler worked in all weather and moving dates would make a mess for people who already dealt with enough (the delivery guy had some stories about working through the blizzard the day before, just urgent deliveries, hospitals and stuff but still a rough day).  If they bring the food, I could certainly be there to simply open the door. I wanted to be dependable, to show everyone we have relationships with that St Jacobus’s food pantry does what they have to do to keep commitments.

That leads me to wonder why we are here this morning, what did you go out for. It cold, I think it’s a record low for this area, the heat up here sucks in this temperature and we are still cleaning up after a bomb cyclone (I must admit I love the new names for weather people are making up, blizzard is so not cool anymore). I think most people would understand if I canceled service this morning for safety concerns.  Even though I was just inspired by the number of people who came to church on the 4th Sunday of Adventmas, the morning of Christmas eve, I wondered if anyone would show up today.  I thought, I had to come and see.  After all, there are 4 other churches who will worship here today. We are accountable to each other. What would their members who show up think if we did not. What would that say about how important church was.  What if someone decided to show up at church for the first time in years and found it not available. What if someone in our neighborhood was unable to get to their regular church and really needed to hear God’s word. What if someone in our community really needed some prayer and encouragement?  What if someone wandered in with a tremendous need for help, for warmth, prayer or food.   I like to think of the weather as a sort of metaphor for the word made flesh, the church open at all times, God with us at all times, good and bad.      

For Jesus earliest disciples, they probably asked the same questions.  Why are we here. why have we left our work, families, lives, stability to follow a wandering preacher with no name recognition or accomplishments to speak of.  This starts with the outreach and encouragement of John the Baptist.  He played a prominent role in the opening prologue we heard on Christmas, when the active, engaging, creating, sustaining and powerful word of God is made flesh and dwells amongst us. John is the first person to realize what happened on Christmas, telling his followers and his enemies, the Messiah is here. When John sees Jesus, he declares  "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!   Jesus, the word made flesh can do what John, Moses, Abraham or anyone else could not, he could save us from sin in ways repentance, baptism or any ritual could not.  John does not just say these things.  He stops his work, dismisses his followers and points to another unauthorized, untrained wandering preacher, You came to me for something, the best gift I can offer, the best word I can share, the best wisdom I have is knowing what I am done, is to direct you to Jesus.   This was unexpected. Many of John’s followers anticipated a crescendo to his work. A revelation that he is the messiah or the prophet returned or that he will do some great thing. Instead, John points to Jesus.

Today, we get the picture of how John did this.  There are two main parts to how things go viral, how this child born on Christmas in a little known and even less respected area of the world shows everyone that he is the Messiah (God will be revealed in physical, earthy ways, In John’s Gospel there is a series of 7 signs or miracles that are focused on to show, to verify, to convince, to teach that Jesus is the messiah).   It all starts when 1: John says what he sees and 2: Jesus invites others to follow, to come and see.  That is all there is to it,  John says what he sees and Jesus invites others to follow, to witness and make their own decisions.

This work of opening our mouths and opening our eyes, of seeing God present in the world and telling people what we experience is not for history books, it is as much our mission as it was theirs.  Our stories may well start with why we are here this morning, what we came out to see in the cold and ice, that our God is always around, that the word was made flesh at Christmas. Our reading today ends with Jesus promise, You will see greater things then these, next week and a few verses later, we begin experience those greater things.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sermon for December 31st

John 1:19-34

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." 21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord,' " as the prophet Isaiah said. 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 26 John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, "After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." 32 And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

The message

It was a long process for me to become a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,  It was 5 or 6 years from the moment I walked into my pastor’s office in Brooklyn and said “I think I have a call to ministry” to the time I graduated from seminary and started the interview process here with the call committee (a group of church members selected to review pastoral candidates) . Many of the people who went through the process would refer to it, not kindly, as jumping through hoops.  There were interviews, evaluations, a 3 year masters program, an internship, academic reviews, essays, a wide range of classes, lots of obligations and finally you needed a congregation that would meet you, interview you, listen to you preach and vote to call you as a pastor.  After all that was done, redone and followed up with, you would be ordained.  There were a lot of people who did not make it, who were rejected at a certain point in the process or sent back for more training or work.  There were even more people who were anxious every step of the way, not sure if they would be removed from the process over saying the wrong thing, writing a bad essay, a poor review, difficult moment or failed course.  Looking back on it, I still wonder if it was all necessary, if it was a good gauge of calling to ministry and predictor of pastoral ability. They are responsible for you, what you do, how you act, on the hook for abuse and personally impacted by how you represent the church..  I am part of the religious establishment, the bishops office and ELCA have some major things they can hold over me, moving churches or getting a new call, retirement, health insurance.   I do something really unapproved, I could end up sitting in a storefront called awesome Joe’s awesome church wondering if any awesome people would show up.   

The Priests, Levites and Phariseess, some of the dominant Jewish religious leaders who engage with and confront John the Baptist in today’s reading, all had their own system for admission and membership. A lot of it was based on family lineage, connections as well as extensive study, training, education and review.  You were expected to teach the party line. (we will see more about this when the Pharisee Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night, in the cover of darkness, when no one will know about it).  I’m not sure John the Baptist would get approved for a call in our church.  John the Baptist did not give a poop about any of this, He was not part of the established religious system, he did not get trained by them, approved by them, paid by them, housed by them, and he was not indebted to them in any way. They had virtually no influence over him, there was nothing they could take away from him since they had never given him anything.  The priests, levities and Pharisees could not ignore him.  John had crowds, people going on to see him, people in the temples talking “did you hear what John said, did you see what John did, John condemned this practice, John demanded that we be baptized instead). Friends would tell friends, hey you want a real religious experience, you want to hear a great sermon, skip that trip to the temple, come with me to see John instead,  
John’s following and independence made the religious authorities very uncomfortable. What if John tells the crowds to attack the temple and seat him as high priest, what could we do, what if he tells them “the Lord said to rebel against Rome, that could get us all killed. 

They go to John to learn more but ultimately stop him.  Maybe John needs something, maybe John can be brought into compliance with the authorities.  The questions asked of John show us that he and the authorities live in completely different spaces. They have no idea who he is or how is able to do the things he is doing.  They ask are you the prophet, are you Elijah, are you the messiah, the only people they think could possibly operate outside of their system,  As John says no,  they ask if you are not the prophet, not Elijah, not the Messiah (and not authorized by us), how can you Baptize.   John’s answers make things worse. John shares some hard truth, there is church, there is temple and then there is God.  Even the authorities know that is true, your system is okay, for some things, but we are God’s people and God’s church, God is ultimately in control, God aint bound by your rules, you don’t have a monopoly on faith.  Not only that, but John was saying that the Messiah, the son of God, the Word made flesh, was here in the world and also not part of the system,   This Jesus, John kept pointing to, kept demanding people follow, was also an outsider.

Like many of the other familiar things around the story of Christmas John’s Gospel does not make any mention of the magi or kings going to see Jesus. (the story is only found in Matthew’s Gospel).  The visitors from a foregin land whose gifts made the epiphany, the moment when the world starts to realize who was born on Christmas.  In their story, a star points them to Jesus. Their gold tell us this child is king, their frankinsence tells that this child is God with us, is to be worshipped, their myrrh, a perfume used in burial, tells us this child will die for our salvation.  In John, this message of who was born on Christmas is told in the preaching of John the Baptist. He is the first to realize who Jesus is.  His declarations are the epiphany or 3 kings in John’s Gospel.  Jesus can do what John cannot, that Jesus can baptize with the Holy Spirit, that Jesus can take away the sin of the world, that Jesus ranks ahead of John because he was before John, his pushing away of followers, of reducing himself as Jesus increases, all show us who Jesus is.  John puts his credibility, his name, all of the work he has done and struggles he endured on the line for Jesus. He tells the crowds, I myself have seen and testified,

As we complete our 150th anniversary year, we can look back on what we have accomplished, give thanks and celebrate. We made money, we maintained relationships, took care of the property (my 2 long term goals that seemed daunting and overwhelming, replacing the gym lights and painting the gym, were both done this year, pretty easily at that) we didn’t grow much numerically,  The churches that share the space with us are doing well. the launch of an English fellowship, great growth in Lightcast,  Our relationship with Rainbow is getting better and better.  We are a community together and they are big part of it. 

The real question we have to ask, we have to look at and judge and shape our work is, how have we pointed to Christ.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sermon for Christmas

the reading 
John 1:1-18

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 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. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' ") 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 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.

The message

This is mostly what i said at Christmas (a mix of my morning and evening messages, which i did without a manuscript)  

We are now starting John's Gospel. This journey will take us from today until Easter Sunday. This is a good start, the reading we just heard is the prologue, introduction or summary of John's Gospel. Everything we hear after this will be about providing evidence for or a deeper look at the ideas and statements of faith in these 18 verses.  
Its packed with incredible statements and each time you read it, you see something new. to engage with the start of John is intense and always interesting. I can walk down a street that I have walked down hundreds of times and notice something new, a small, unique architectural element on top of a house or building, a first conversation with someone that I have said hello to and that’s it for months or eating at a restaurant I always pass on the way someplace else. 

As I prepared for tonight I had the same experience with this reading from the opening verses of John’s Gospel.  John 1 is a street we have walked down many times before.  If you asked me where is “in the beginning was the word”  or “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”  in the bible, I could tell you oh that’s the start of John.  I always thought of it as beautiful, poetic language and I knew it was a summary of John’s gospel, sort of an abstract for the book or thesis statement for what comes next.  For me, looking again was an encounter with the power of God and experience of God’s saving, joy giving, sin forgiving grace.
John 1 is not just a summary of what the book will explain and argue, it says what it will do to you: You will be inspired by the story of Jesus’ greatest advocate and evangelist, a person who diminished himself so that the true light could shine, a man known as John the Baptist.  You will know that Jesus Christ is the word of God, the long promised savior and that the kingdom of God is open to all people.  You will see signs that verify and witness that these things are true. It will deepen your faith, call you back to a faith you have stopped believing or introduce you to the joy we experience here. It will assure you that your sins are forgiven by and only because of God’s grace. 

John 1 is good news. In elementary school, we learned that newspaper articles, all journalism really was based on answering 5 questions, or the 5 w’s who what where when why and sometimes how (which does not start with a w so I guess gets left out a lot). The quicker that was done, the better (attention spans aren’t always great, you wanted the reader to know everything they needed in the first minute in case they got bored or distracted, they would still know the main ideas).  We had an assignment to go home and look. To cut out 4 or 5 articles from different papers and look at who, what why when, where and how.  I still remember looking at the articles all those years ago and being surprised, like I had discovered some secret, that those 5 w’s were all there in each one.  I felt the same way as I looked at the opening words of John’s Gospel.  Wait a minute, all that is in there, in that chapter I read so many times before. 

Christmas has a big part in this who, what, why when and where of John’s Gospel.  We are much more familiar with the stories of Christmas in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels.  Matthew takes 2 chapters to tell the story of Christmas. He reports the genealogy of Jesus, connecting him to the family of King David and other great men (and even a few women) in the history of Israel.  Matthew tell us about the faith of Mary trusting the promises of the angel, the faith of Joseph trusting God’s word experienced in a vision, choirs of angels singing hymns of news and praise and the arrival of wise men, kings or magi to give gifts to the newborn Christ.  Luke’s Gospel takes 2 long chapters to tell the story of Christmas, sharing powerful songs by Zechariah and Mary, more information on the birth of John the Baptist and a census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. 

The story of Christmas takes 9 words for John to tell.  “the word made flesh and dwelled amongst us”.  For John, there are no angels bringing news or songs of celebration, no chorus of them in the night sky .  There is no stable or inn, there are no animals, no magi or kings, no new star in the sky,  there are no frightenend shepherds in their fields, there are no visions. there is only “the word made flesh dwelling amongst us”.    

Christmas is the time when the Word comes to the world.  The word of God is more than speech, it is God’s main agent in the world, it creates, it gives life, it redeems, it sustains.  It is God that we can encounter, experience and know. Jesus is the word made human, that is who is born on Christmas.   Now God’s word has come into the world before, spoken by prophets, given victory, stopped kings, made kings, parted seas, brought down walls, clouds of fire, changes in society, announced hope,  The word of God called creation into being, made air, water, land and sky, sustains life, parts waters, gives freedom,  but Christmas is different.  Now God’s word is not just spoken at particular times, bringing comfort and condemnation, hope and news.  God’s word when made flesh, brings salvation, forgives sins, makes a new covenant  Speaks healing and joy, peace and forgiveness, trust that God is in control of the world,

This Christmas we have to remember If God’s word spoken into nothing can create life, If God’s word spoken by Ezekiel can restore life to a pile of very dry bones, if God’s word spoken by Jeremiah can change the course of life for a whole people , if God’s word spoken by Moses and Aaron can set the people free from the Egyptian Empire, can make water flow from a rock and bread on the desert floor, imagine what that word made flesh, living amongst us can do,

To summarize a summary: 

Who = Jesus,
what = is the word of God physically with us
why =  God’s grace and desire for our salvation
when = spoken a lot but physically with us at Christmas
where = In the midst of the world  (everything human, social systems, culture, relationships, the daily things we interact with, oppression, suffering, history)
 (how = Death and resurrection )