God’s New Year’s Resolution
Sermon by Rev. Gary W. Charles, January 3rd, 2021
On this 10th day of Christmas, listen to this reading from John’s Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overpower it.
That is my favorite version of the Christmas story, even with no angels serenading shepherds while watching their flocks by night. No decrees coming from Caesar Augustus. No holy family hitting the road to fill out census forms. No magi befuddling Herod by listening with one ear and ignoring with the other.
In fact, the main character of the Christmas story that adorns all our creches is seemingly absent from John’s story – the babe born in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, visited by the powerless and the powerful.
Look again. Listen to John’s Christmas story once more, for the promised child of God is there. He is just known by a different name. In Greek, he is called the logos and in English, logos is lamely translated as word. Here is another way to render John’s Christmas story and to grasp the power of logos: “In every beginning is the Word of God, be it a child born in Bethlehem or an itinerant teacher and healer traveling through Palestine or a convicted blasphemer nailed to a cross or a Spirit that is Emmanuel in us and in our world. In every real beginning, there is the Word of God.”
What I love about John’s Christmas story is that as hard as you try you cannot commercialize it. Even Amazon cannot package it. You cannot cheapen his story by putting the baby Jesus in Santa’s sleigh to be pulled by reindeer past Frosty the Snowman. You cannot flatten it out as a nice moral tale like the town of Who-Ville that converts the Grinch or sentimentalize it like Clarence earning his wings in Miracle on 34th Street.
No, John’s Christmas story is told with simple elegance. It says that whenever there is a genuine beginning, God’s Word, the logos, Jesus the Christ, is there. For instance, when two adults move beyond the initial attraction, the first emotional enchantment, the heated arguments and learn to negotiate their differences and yet still want to pledge their lives to each other, then something new begins; and that something new is God’s Word, God’s logos, working within them to accomplish God’s purpose of love. Whenever two partisan political sides put down their verbal swords long enough to listen, then something new can happen; and that something new is God’s Word, God’s logos, working to tear down the walls of division and accomplish God’s just purpose.
As some have said goodbye and others good riddance to 2020, John’s Christmas story sets our sights much higher. John urges us not to settle for living in “the new normal” or hoping for a year when things will get “back to normal.” Sure, we are all ready for an end to this deadly viral scourge, for a time to stop wearing masks and keeping a physical distance from everyone, for the freedom to travel without fear of getting sick, for a release for all those in the medical community who have been running a healing sprint for almost ten months. We are all ready to return to life without the health and economic strains of 2020 and certainly without all the political theatrics.
John, though, sets our sights so much higher. He invites us not to make a new list of resolutions that have already probably failed for most of us. John’s story is about God’s resolution for this new year, a resolution for God’s logos to swoop over the chaos in our world, in our nation, in our lives and bring order and peace. It is a story of God’s unflinching resolve to make a home in us and God’s unrelenting resolve for us to make a home for those who lack one, to practice abundant hospitality, on behalf of all who lack food, lack shelter, lack justice, lack faith, lack even a hint of light in their lives.
John has little interest in the quaint resolutions we announced on New Year’s Day; he has great interest, though, in God’s resolve that you and I stop treating God as our family pet, which we keep on a leash, to entertain us when we are bored, to rescue us when we are distraught, and to snuggle with us when all is calm and all is bright.
The God we meet in John’s Christmas story is a logos God, a “get on with it” God, and calls for that resolve from us. Our logos God calls us to get on with making sure that Food Banks are closed forever because they are no longer needed, to get on with making sure that Shelters are a thing of the past because people have a decent and affordable place to call home, to get on with making sure that healers do not have to beg for protective gear and all who need to be tested for this virus can do so simply and at no cost and all can get vaccinated, especially the poor and most vulnerable, to get on with making sure that everyone who needs a listening ear is heard today, to get on with learning the truth about any topic before sending out a tweet or an email or a Facebook posting that has little or any veracity at all, to get on with praising God because when you and I do we climb out of our little selves long enough to catch a glimpse of the logos, the Word made flesh, who shines light into the darkest places in our world and the darkest recesses of our souls.
It may sound presumptuous. It may well be presumptuous on my part to speak of God’s resolution for the New Year, but I am doing no more than listening to John’s Christmas story. I am listening to the story of the logos, the get-on-with-it God, who sets our sights higher than our wildest dreams and who invites us to feast at a table where the supplies never run short and the seating is not limited. What better way to begin the New Year, then, than to accept the invitation of our get-on-with-it God and take the bread and drink the cup and join the great company of saints who are refreshed, forgiven, and inspired at this table by God’s resolve to never let us go.
For some, Christmas is over. The tree is down, the decorations are packed way, the carols are sung. Read John’s Christmas story and the great good news on this third day of a new year is that by the resolve of our logos God, our get-on-with-it God, Christmas has just begun.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!