December 29, 2019

2019 Dec29_RevKaren

The First Christmas Story – The First Sunday After Christmas

A Sermon Preached by The Rev Karen Siegfriedt

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 This one was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through [this Word], and without [this Word] not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 [through this Word] 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.”{John 1} What I would like to talk about today is the “first Christmas story” as described in the prologue of John’s gospel. It is my hope that as we learn to embrace the good news of this first Christmas story, our limited vision will be corrected, and we will begin to recognize the sacredness in the entire creation!

 

We are all familiar with the “second Christmas story” which we celebrated on December 25th. Each year, we remember the story of the birth of Jesus and how the Word of God became enfleshed in a new born, Jewish baby in the Middle East. While the historical details are sketchy, we know that Jesus was born about 2000+ years ago to Mary his mother and that he was brought up in the town of Nazareth. Eventually, this baby grew up to become a teacher, a healer, a prophet, a shining light who turned the conventional wisdom of his day up-side-down. His teachings, actions, and spiritual depth are reflected in the four different gospels.


Even our secular culture shines a light on this second Christmas story as it encourages generosity, joy, community, and good will among all people. Many of us have embraced some of the cultural symbols of this holy event with the decorating of Christmas trees, the display of lights, and the giving of gifts. I sincerely hope that this year’s celebration of Christmas has blessed you with grace upon grace and that you will continue to hold fast to the belief that the Light shines in the darkness and that the darkness has not and will not overcome it. {John 1:5} So that’s the second Christmas Story in a nutshell!

 

However, in today’s gospel
according to St. John, we hear
about the “first Christmas Story”
when God breaks forth in
creation, leaving a divine
imprint on all created matter.

 

John refers to this divine imprint as the Logos, commonly translated as the Word. In this first Christmas Story, there is no baby, no magi, no Mary and Joseph, no shepherds. Instead, this story takes place at the very beginning before time began. When the big bang finally unleashed its energy some 13.8 billion years ago, God made God’s-self known through the physical realm. By this time, God no longer remained a total mystery but instead chose to reveal the divine essence through creation, meaning that God’s Word, God’s imprint, God’s DNA, God’s wisdom, God’s light, and God’s love is embedded in everything that is created.

 

The good news is that God’s Word is not limited to Jesus, or the Holy Scriptures, or only to those places religion has deemed as being sacred. If we want to connect with God, we do not have to look out-side ourselves, or above, or in a church, or even in the sacraments. We simply need to recognize the light of Christ shining in each person, in each creature, in each molecule. This is what the fullness of the incarnation is all about. Spirit and matter are not in opposition but united, both having intrinsic value. As St. John would say: “All things came into being through [this Word], and without [this Word] not one thing came into being.”{John 1:3}

 

This Word of God is the Cosmic Christ whom modern theologians write about as if it were a new concept, (although it was first mentioned in John’s Gospel in the early years of Christianity.) The Cosmic Christ or the Word of God has no limits and is enfleshed in each one of us along with the fish of the ocean, the animals of the fields, the stars in the sky, the air we breath, the water we drink, and yes even the insects that swarm in hives. My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are standing on holy ground!

 

We only need to open our eyes
and reframe our thoughts so that
we can begin to see God’s light
shining in ourselves, in our
fellow human beings, in our
natural resources, and in mother
earth herself.

 

So why do you think it is so difficult for us to see the face of God in creation? Why do you think that theologians have made a distinction between the sacred and the profane? Why do most religions put all their emphasis on creating exclusive sacred places, sacred times, and sacred actions while overlooking the holiness of the ordinary? Why does Christian preaching tend to limit the incarnation to the person of Jesus rather than emphasize the Word of God in each and every person? Why do we have such a difficult time in recognizing the light of Christ in people with whom we disagree or those whose personalities rub us the wrong way? Why do we refuse to recognize the imprint of God in animals, allowing the cruelty of factory farming to continue in order to eat more meat at cheaper prices? Why do we engage in an economy that pollutes our waters and contaminates the air? Why aren’t we weeping about the carbon footprint we are leaving on mother earth? Why are we so quick to go to war before trying other means to stop the cycle of violence?

 

I think there are many reasons why we fail to recognize the imprint of God in creation. And so, I would like to point out a few of these issues:

 

1. Sometimes, we make
judgements about others based
only on outside appearances
rather than looking deeply into a
person’s soul where the light of
Christ is shining.

 

As the old adage goes: “You can’t judge a book by its cover” and if you do, you will often miss out on an amazing story. My friend Stacey tells the story about bringing her family to a Christmas tree farm to have pictures taken by a professional photographer. Stacey is at a fragile place in her life, suffering from a life-threatening cancer. She is undergoing many medical treatments in order to extend her life so that she can see her two teenage boys grow up.

 

As she and her family arrived for the picture taking event, the photographer was just finishing with another family. They looked so handsome and happy in their coordinated outfits, the two younger children laughing and running ahead of the parents and older brother. Watching them, Stacey felt wistful and envied the seeming innocence of that young family.  A few minutes later, as her family walked through the trees, the photographer told Stacey about the sweet family she had just been working with. Several years ago, they had lost a son, and that they had brought a photo of him to be in the pictures with them. But watching this family from a distance, not realizing who they were or what they’d been through, all Stacey could see was their beauty, their happiness, their seeming innocence, the liveliness of their children. She didn’t see that they were moving towards the holidays with a child-sized hole in their hearts. She didn’t see that they had sustained a shattering, life-altering loss. She didn’t see how that loss had changed them, and how it still hurts them.

 

The bottom line is, we can’t judge by outside appearances. We don’t know what traumas others are experiencing. So, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.”

 

2. Another reason we fail to
recognize God’s imprint in others
is because we don’t love
ourselves enough.

 

How can we love others when we think of ourselves as ‘less than’? At times, the world has been harsh and unloving towards us and has communicated the message that we are just not good enough. Sometimes that message was subtle as when our elders tried to form us in their image, negating our unique selves. Other times, that message was brutal, especially when we were ridiculed, rejected, bullied, and judged, thus diminishing our self-esteem. Instead of listening to this fake news, we need to return to the voice of God which tells us we are beloved children of God, created in God’s image, and worthy of great love.

 

3. We are biologically hardwired
to survive using the fight or
flight response.

 

When we sense danger, our adrenalin kicks in, fear raises its ugly head, and our vision becomes myopic. Fear casts out all love and without love in the mix, it is difficult to recognize God’s loving imprint in our adversaries. No wonder we choose war rather than struggle with Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. The spiritual journey is learning to rise above our fears so that we can begin to love others as God loves us.

 

4. Finally, we have not trained
our minds to see the world as
God sees it.

 

The healing of the human mind needs to be our first priority if we are to make any progress. Where we focus our mental spotlight will determine what we will see and experience. Little by little, the conversations we hold in the privacy of our mind are determining our perception and destiny. Each thought can move us toward or away from our God-given potential. To ‘put on the mind of Christ’ means to focus our attention on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. In order to see the light of Christ in each and every creature, we first need to change the way we think.

 

The true Light which enlightens everyone has come into the world. And that Light is in you! Jesus said: “You are the light of the world…15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5)

And so the next time you have the opportunity to walk along the sand dunes, smell the flowers, swim in the ocean, eat a meal, cuddle your pet, or kiss your spouse, remember that you are coming face to face with the face of God.

 

Merry 1st Christmas!!!

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