Come Back to the Beginning

December 24, 2017     Advent 4 – Come Back to the Beginning

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.

Every time the Gospel of John uses the word “world” – the writer assumes we know that that means “the God-hating-world.” And, from this video and from our own experience, we know what that looks like, don’t we? We’ve seen it first hand. We’ve become numb to the ways in which humans can inflict harm on one another, on the earth, on all of creation.

And so we come to a day like today, Christmas Eve and the 4th Sunday in Advent and we think, does this matter? Is God with us? Or is our hate, our rebellion against God so great that we’ve somehow disabled God? Or maybe, on a day like today, we hit pause on all the worldly stuff. We shove it to the side to just breathe for a minute.

Maybe today is a day you get to breathe. Or maybe today is a day you are in overdrive. Maybe the worldly news continues to over power the Good News you know to be true.

Yet, I think what the end of the video and what the beginning of the Gospel of John have in common is that new life, new hope begins with the birth of Jesus Christ.   The Gospel of John begins with some of the most beautiful and poetic descriptions of God that you can get lost in your head and the beauty of it all: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And yet, it is this very imagery that plunges you into relationship with God. It tells about God’s origin story – not only in Genesis but this new origin of taking on human form so that we can experience God. Have a relationship with God. Know God. The $2 seminary word is incarnation. God become incarnate in human form. God became human. The word became flesh and lived among us. The word moved into the neighborhood and set up camp.

And, John continues, the world won’t accept what has come. And this is not news to us is it.

Yet, John reminds us that in order to live in this world that God loves, despite our rebellion, we must start at the beginning. The beginning when God took on human flesh so we could encounter God and be changed and then share that with the world.

And we need the darkness and the light in order to see it and do it. John says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. But do not think that dark = bad and light = good. We’re too much in that trap already, aren’t we? Hope is born in the dark. Barbara Brown Taylor in her book “Learning to Walk in the Dark” says, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” And “…new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” 

Tonight, whether you’re here or worshiping somewhere else to celebrate the birth of Jesus, most likely you will end the worship in candlelight. And you need darkness and you need light. And the cool thing is? That little bit of light you’ll hold in your hand illumines the faces of those standing next to you. It reveals your neighbor, the one you are called to love. The one who Jesus tells you to love.

We have to come back to the beginning of our story to know who we are, because it’s where we discover who God is in the person of Jesus Christ. The beginning and the end. Come back to the beginning and see. It’s the best news you’ll ever hear.