The world is not meaningless, and it is not random. It has a key, a core, a cornerstone – the Word. The Word that was in the beginning, the Word that was with God, the Word that was God. The Word through whom YOU were made.
2nd Sunday of Christmas (Year A) – January 5, 2014 – John 1:1-18, Ephesians 1:3-14
St. Jacob’s-Spaders and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Pastor Evan Davis
It’s still Christmas, yes. It’s the 12th day of Christmas. We are celebrating the event that defines our faith – that God came to live with us in Jesus Christ. But you and I both are thinking about New Year’s. We rung in a new year last Tuesday night and Wednesday. It’s New Year’s resolution time. Everyone’s talking about them. Some of us have already failed to keep ours. It’s a great time of year to own a gym, to be a personal trainer.
It’s a time when we are re-thinking ourselves. We may resolve to be a different person in the new year. To make changes in our lives, changes that we may really need to make. To do that thing we’ve been waiting to do. To be honest with people we care about. To make that change. To re-define ourselves.
All of which begs the question, “what defines us?” What makes us who we are? And the even more important question, “who are you?”
These days we are encouraged from all sides to be who we are. It’s not bad advice. We can’t really be anyone else, not without causing ourselves emotional and spiritual harm. But who are we? Who are you?
As simplistic as it may sound, I think most of the time we really do define ourselves by what we do and fail to do. Some of us may define ourselves as “responsible people,” because we have made some responsible decisions and a lot of the time we act with wisdom and faithfulness. And some of us are trapped in the belief that we are failures. Screw-ups. We believe what we’ve been told, that “we’ll never amount to anything.” Maybe because we have failed to make ourselves into who we think we should be. But much more often these definitions – whether positive or negative – are imposed by others. We are defined as the responsible person by others who need us to be that for them. Or we are defined as the failures by those who need to hang around a failure to prop themselves up. Companies that need profits try to define us by clothes, cars, make-up, or music. Our anxious society convinces us we must be prosperous to be a person, we must be original, independent, totally unique, in order to matter at all.
So who are you resolving to be this year? What self-image are you busy constructing for yourself? Responsible parent? Good student? or rebel? Victim? Creative genius? Skinny girl? Built guy? And who will you be when when your resolve fails? Who will you be when you cannot be who you resolve to be any longer?
What our faith teaches is that the most important resolutions are God’s, not ours. God is the one whose voice, whose will, whose Word, the Word, creates and therefore defines all things.
What I believe God is doing through John in what I just read, what we call the “prologue” to John’s gospel, is defining everything for us. This is unquestionably my favorite passage of scripture. It is about the Word. The Greek word that we translate as “Word” is logos, and logos is a beautiful word. It is the word the Greeks used to refer to the underlying principle or key to the universe. John uses the word logos, taking that meaning and using it to describe God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word is the one who was in the beginning, the one who was alongside God the Father, the one who was God as well. You may be able to see, this is where the doctrine of the Trinity arises. The Word is…the second person of the Trinity; the Word made flesh is the human being we know as Jesus.
This beautiful, poetic prologue to John is among those verses of scripture we would do well to memorize. To hold dear in our hearts and minds – these are words that reveal the Word. I don’t have enough time to do any justice to this whole passage, but this morning I want you to listen and hear what John says a few verses later. He says,
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 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.
Hear this: The Word was made flesh in Jesus so that you would become a child of God. When Jesus walked this earth, hardly anyone really got to know to him. Hardly anyone really accepted him until they met him risen from the dead, speaking to them, breathing the Spirit into them! Well, HERE is that Jesus, here in the water, here in the bread and wine, here in the words that proclaim him, the Word! Here! Now you can believe! And here is what God is telling you:
YOU ARE a child of God. That is who you are. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth (some of us were eagerly awaited and others among us were a total surprise!), you are born not randomly, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. Just as Jesus was of the Father’s love begotten, so are you. No resolution you can ever keep, or break, will ever define you. Only God defines you. It is not “I think therefore I am,” that we confess, nor “I do therefore I am,” nor “I fail therefore I am,” but “God is the only I AM, and God made me.”
Before you were ever a thought in your parents’ imagination, God “chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world,” as Paul proclaims in his letter to the Ephesians. You were “destined for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” If you want something else to memorize, keep your bulletin today and look over that passage as well.
This year, resolve to remember that you are God’s child. This year, resolve to remember that you always have a home to which you can return. Just stop and trace that cross on your forehead, and remember your home in God. This year, resolve to remember you deserve love and respect, not because of what you’ve done, but because it’s God’s will you are alive, because God was willing to give God’s own life for you, because you are inextricably connected to the Word through whom you were made.
This year, resolve to remember that God is using you right now to change the world. In small ways, individually. And then, together, in bigger and bigger ways. We each have purpose, especially together, as the witnesses of the Word here in this community. And we’re going to be talking about that purpose together as a congregation. We’re going to have a retreat to put into words God’s purpose for Trinity / St. Jacob’s, and then we’re going to try to live out that purpose in all we do and say.
On facebook this week, I stumbled across one of those pictures people post with a witty phrase written across it. It was on a page promoting agnosticism and atheism (and I’m not trying to shame people who hold those beliefs because I’ve been pretty close to there myself). It was a picture of many stars and galaxies, as recently mapped by our increasingly powerful satellites and cameras. And the caption read, “Christianity: the belief that a god created a universe 13.75 billion light years across containing 200 billion galaxies, each of which contains an average of more than 200 billion stars, just so he could have a personal relationship with you.”1
Well, almost! Not just you, but all of us. The crazy, radical, unbelievable good news is this: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” God, the same God who created that whole universe and its 200 billion galaxies and 40,000 billion stars, give or take a few, also created you – and all of it, you and every star, every planet, every creature, down to each cell, was made for and through the Word who was made flesh in Jesus Christ. You are not random. You are a precious piece of the entire, interdependent universe, connected to everything and everyone.
Children of God, resolve to remember. And when you forget, and you will, come back to this place, come back to your home, where you will hear this good news, again and again, until you join the choir that is sings it evermore and evermore. Amen.