Corona Sabbath 41 THE BIRTH OF JESUS Reflection Text

Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath.  This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19.    We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

We listen to John 1:1-14 read by Sue Sherwood.  This passage includes the prologue to the gospel of John.  No angels or stars here, but a sweeping statement of the import of the birth of Jesus.  

             In the beginning
                         there was the Word;
             the Word was in God’s presence,
                         and the Word was God.
             The Word was present to God
                         from the beginning.
             Through the Word
                         all things came into being,
             and apart form the Word
                         nothing came into being
                         that has come into being.
             In the Word was life,
                         and that life was humanity’s light -
             a Light that shines in the darkness,
                         a Light that the darkness has never overtaken. 

Then came one named John, sent as an envoy from God, who came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that through his testimony everyone might believe.  He himself wasn’t the Light; he only came to testify about the Light – the true Light that illumines all humankind.

The Word was coming into the world -
was in the world-
     and though the world was made through the Word,
     the world didn’t recognize it.
Though the Word came to its own realm,
     the Word’s own people didn’t accept it.
Yet any who did accept the Word,
     who believed in that Name,
     were empowered to become children of God-
children born not of natural descent,
     nor urge of flesh
     nor human will -
but born of God.
And the Word became flesh
     and stayed for a little while among us;
we saw the Word’s glory -
     the favor and position a parent gives an only       child -
             filled with grace,
                         filled with truth. 

Reflection from Kim

Christmas Eve is over.  Christmas Day has passed.  Maybe it was different for you this covid year.  Maybe you had to adapt your traditions.  Maybe the holiday involved a Zoom.  Maybe you were on your own for the first time.  Maybe you missed the usual celebrations with food and family and friends.  But we can all take a deep breath.  Sigh.  Relieved.  We made it!  Christmas is over.

So, now there is the putting away of Christmas.  Taking down the lights.  Undecorating the tree.  Putting away the creche scene.  Storing the garland.  Until next year.  When, hopefully things will be back to normal as far as Christmas is concerned. 

But Christmas is the celebration of a birth.  It is a beginning.  It is the start of an adventure.  As with the birth of any baby, there is more.  There is the unfolding of all that is to come.  The stages and changes and transitions and growth and struggles and adventures that mark a life.  So, Christmas is a beginning.

In the beautiful lesson that we heard from the gospel of John, we are told that in the life of Jesus we are shown grace and truth.  The grace and truth of God.  Of Divine Love. 

What if as we put away Christmas for this year we leave out the grace and truth.  What if we don’t box them up for next year but leave them out?  Grace and truth.  What if we try to hang on to the grace and truth that we see in Jesus and let that be our light in the days to come?  What if we really try to fundamentally integrate that grace and truth into our lives? 

Grace is about realizing all that we are given.  It’s about forgiveness of ourselves and others.  Grace enables us to treat others with compassion and understanding instead of judgment and hostility.  Truth is about affirming that the way of Jesus really does work.  Building community, pursuing reconciliation, living with compassion, ending oppression, creating a society that is anti racist and anti violent.  Declaring Good New to the poor.  This as not about a food bank.  This is about a living wage, affordable housing, good public transportation and healthcare. 

I spoke with someone recently who belongs to a conservative evangelical church.  I was told that they’re is a lot of upset in those churches right now over the race situation in America.  Many, especially pastors, believe that the church, to be true to the grace and truth of Jesus, must promote anti-racism in America today.  But there are many in the pews who do not share that commitment. 

We can think about Jesus teachings with regard to race, yes.  But there is more.  His teachings about money and wealth.  Seldom adhered to.  His teachings about forgiveness and reconciliation.  Often ignored.  Teachings about equality and justice.  We pick and choose. How about love?  Of neighbor?  Stranger?  Enemy?  Self?  When it suits us?   Here we want to remember the grace and truth.  Keep it at the forefront.  Not box it up.  Put it away.  Store it.

In the book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History by Michael H. Hart Jesus is number three not because his message isn’t valued but because his followers do not adhere to his teachings.  Others have noted that the teachings of Jesus are wonderful but so seldom lived out.  Taken seriously.  The way of Jesus actually embodied.  Apparently his followers are known for lacking commitment to his grace and truth. 

In recent months in our country there has been much talk about voting rights and redistricting and the census.  We want to see sanity and integrity in government.  Of course!  So, we want to think about the same kind of consistency and integrity when it comes to our faith.  We want to think about living out the grace and truth that we see in Jesus. 

There is a story about a poor young Eskimo girl .  She didn’t have enough to eat or clothes to keep warm.  One day, a newspaper reporter came into the village where the little girl lived.  He saw the girl’s situation and decided to interview her.  In the course of things, he asked her, “Do you believe in God?” 

“Yes, I do,” said the little girl. 

“Do you believe God loves you?” asked the reporter.

Again the girl said, “Yes, I do.”

“If you believe in God and believe that God loves you, then why do you think you don’t have enough food or enough warm clothes to wear?”

The little girl answered, “I think God asked someone to bring me these things.  But someone said no!” [From Advent, Christmas and Epiphany:  Stories and Reflections on the Sunday Readings, by Megan McKenna, p. 237.]

If you are watching this or reading this, you have likely been on your journey of faith for some time.  Maybe you have already committed yourself to the way of Jesus.  It may already be your intention to try to live out Divine Love in your life.  So, for you, Christmas may just be a reminder.  An opportunity to re-commit.  To open yourself once again to birthing Divine Love in your life.  And blessing the world in your own way.  So as we put away the decorations may we remember that the Word, full of grace and truth, is seeking to become flesh in us.  Amen.

(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)

Author: Rev. Wells

Pastor of Lakewood United Church of Christ since 1991. Graduate of Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary of New York.

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