We live in a world in which messages are all around us. We are bombarded with information, and communication, often to the point of overload. When it comes to sharing the good news of great joy, our problem today is not so much the challenge of getting the word out. We have the technology. But our challenge is that the good news of God’s love may get lost in the cacophony of voices, messages, videos, and advertising competing for our attention.
In the Season of Advent, Christians are invited to slow down, to spend time in prayer and reflection, to wait and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. I wonder how many of us feel like we were able to do that. How many of us feel like this month has been a reflective time of spiritual preparation? And how many of us feel like it was instead a mad rush of activities and events, expectations and demands?
I wonder if tonight is the first moment when some of you have been able to sit peacefully, with your cell phone turned off and your Christmas preparations either finished (or it’s too late now to worry about them anymore). With everything that’s been going on in your life, maybe you haven’t had a chance to reflect on the message that God is bringing to our attention at this time of year.
So please… sit quietly now, and listen so that you may hear.
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 overcome it…
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.
And the Word 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.
The wonder of the Christmas story – of God becoming flesh, of God being born as a little, poor, vulnerable child – is that God’s message came as a person. For millennia, God had been communicating in many and various ways – through angel messengers, through prophets, through commandments, and instructions, and practical guidance.
But in Jesus, God’s message becomes more than words. God’s message of love is embodied in a person… in Jesus, who is born, and grows, and lives in relationship with us. Jesus teaches and preaches with words and stories, but then he shows us what love looks like in the way that he heals, and forgives, and serves even by stooping down to wash the feet of his disciples.
Jesus shows us what love looks like in the way he lives and in the way he dies. He gets the message out – not just a verbal message or a written communication, but a message that is embodied in his very being in the world, in his living and dying for the sake of the world and for us.
As John’s Gospel explains it so eloquently, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
The message is for us. It is for you tonight. God wants you to know that you are truly and deeply loved. God wants you to experience the fullness of life, love, and joy in this world, and in the life to come.
And yes, God also wants you to make your life about following the way of Jesus, about loving your families, friends, neighbours, strangers, and even enemies in the way that he did. And God wants you to help in sharing God’s message of love with the world… with your words, yes, and with your life, and your love, and your fumbling attempts to follow the way of Christ.
There is a beautiful passage from the prophet Isaiah that is sometimes suggested as a reading for Christmas Day. The prophet wrote it during a time when the People of Israel were feeling very lonely and sad. Some of their people had been taken away to live in exile in a foreign land, and things back home just weren’t the same without them. The people felt so discouraged that they thought maybe God didn’t care about them anymore. They couldn’t imagine how God could let something like this happen!
But the prophet Isaiah knew better. He knew that God never abandons us, and he was sure that something good was going to happen soon, the exiles were going to come home. This is what Isaiah wrote: (Isaiah 52:7-10)
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news, who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Tonight we rejoice because God has come to us in Jesus Christ, bringing us hope, and joy, and salvation. Like the sentinels, we lift up our voices in joyous praise, we break forth together into singing… because God has comforted us and redeemed us in Jesus Christ our Saviour.
May we, and all the world, hear and believe the good news of great joy: Christ is born! Alleluia! Alleluia!