Becoming Children of God

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Christmas I, December 25, 2016, Year A; John 1:1-14

Isaiah 52:7-10
Hebrews 1:1-4,(5-12)
John 1:1-14
Psalm 98

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Happy Christmas!

The feast of the Nativity of our Lord….it is so good to see you all here! We truly are blessed to be assembled in this beautiful space to give our thanks and praise to our Loving God on this day.

This time of year in general and this day in specific is one that many come to with mixed emotions.

For some of our friends, this is time with the glaring awareness of a loved one gone, or of promises not kept, or of life-altering diagnosis, or, like Christian told of last night, surprise babies!

The point is that this holiday is not all about cookies and Christmas trees and seeming as though everything is perfect. That Norman Rockwell sense of what Christmas should be often thwarted our capacity to welcome whatever life actually presents, I think.
But some of it is about cookies and Christmas trees…
And sometimes, if you find yourself in one of those situations where life is not as it was before, sometimes those cookies and Christmas trees mean even more.

You see, to me, these things are all symbols of something bigger and deeper than any of us are able to stay present with for any length of time, I would guess.

It’s about relationship.

Luke’s gospel last night was the story of when the time came for Mary to give birth. The literal, historical, actual context for the holiday we celebrate over the next 12 days.

But this morning’s lesson comes from the Johannine community…which had a completely different task and set of theological questions they were wrestling with, didn’t they?

One of my spiritual mentors, whom I’ve never met in person but read daily, Richard Rohr, led his readers through an exercise in his new book The Divine Dance.

He walks us through this prolog in John’s gospel and invites us every time we read “Word” to exchange it with “Relationship.”

In the beginning was the Relationship, and the Relationship was with God, and the Relationship was God. He was in the beginning with God…
And the Relationship 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…
And the Relationship took shape and became visible.

That last one really gave me reason to pause.
And the Relationship took shape and became visible…

You see, until that point, the best we had was human attempts to reach into God to know him better. Sure there was divine intervention with humanity after creation, but not like this.

This shape…this human form…the Johannine community tells us…is the power we are given to become children of God with…because of this relationship “gratuitously” given us so that we might come into his belovedness more fully.

God, in essence, is understood in terms of “whole”, humans are part of that whole and have a drive implanted deep within us “logos”, deep within the earth, to restore to that wholeness, that oneness.

It’s so fitting…when we stop to contemplate this gift of God putting on human flesh means to us.

God with us.

In it…all of it…right to the very end, Jesus reminds us, God will be with us…
Many theologians have explored this miracle of miracles over the centuries, too.

We read from Augustine, in the 4th century, that Jesus created a way for friendship with God to be possible, which is our chosen relationship…

Julian of Norwich, in the middle ages, talked about our need to be “oned” with God.

All of creation is being wooed back into relationship, wholeness, oneness, logos.

God insists on being connected with us, so much so that God sent a messenger to prepare the way… by way of an elderly couple long past the days they would feel excited about late night feedings and changing poopy diapers…and then through a young woman betrothed to a carpenter who is visited by an angel that she will give birth to God made flesh.

I remember one time feeling my paradigm of the incarnation shift when I heard an author say that the purpose of the Johannine community writing down this very text (and the rest) we heard today was so that we (the reader or hearer) might have an encounter with God in such a way, “that you may believe.” (John 20: 30-31).

This window into the community who first heard about Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection this way, wanted us to know something none of the other gospels expanded upon.

That this whole thing happened, that we celebrate this morning, with thanksgiving in our hearts, was a gift to us so that we can be in relationship with God, in our true humanness, our wholeness with which we were conceived at the foundations of creation.

And that is good news. To shout from the mountain tops.

God so loved her creation that she decided to be birthed into humanity so we could have the courage to grow into love with God, to join in on the dance that has been going on since the foundation of the universe and keeps on going into eternity.

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

Amen.