2nd Sunday after Christmas, Year A, 2014 (preached Jan 5, 2014)
First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14 Second Reading: Ephesians 1:2-14 Gospel Reading: John 1:1-18
I almost feel like I have nothing to say, especially after the second and gospel readings for today.
These two passages in particular do a brilliant job summing up Jesus’ purpose and his unimaginable love for us.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the language is wonderful: blessings and more blessings – we are holy and blameless before God in love.
We are adopted as God’s children. God gives us “glorious grace” FREELY bestowed. “In him we have redemption through his blood, and forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.”
St. Paul writes about God’s wisdom, the mystery of his will, God’s good pleasure, gathering up all things in him. He tells us that in Christ we have obtained an inheritance, that we live for the praise of Jesus’ glory.
That we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, and that God gives us a pledge of our inheritance, again, to the praise of his glory.
Like I said, what can I add to that? I mean, they are pure words of grace.
The gospel reading from St. John is more poetic in nature. A little harder to get at, and it shares the dark side of the gospel story as well.
St. John refers to Jesus as THE Word, through him we have life and light, and the light overcomes the darkness.
He was with us, but we didn’t recognize him – even so he makes us children of God, not because of anything we have done, but through the Will 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.” “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”
Even though they come at ti from different angles – St. John through the darker side of saying how Jesus was with us and we didn’t recognize him, and St. Paul using such positive language, I see a few themes running through both, and one of them is GRACE.
St. Paul writes, “to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved,” and “the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.”
In St. John’s gospel Jesus is described as being FULL of grace and truth. And verse 16, “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”
Grace freely bestowed, grace lavished, FULL of grace, grace upon grace.
Our journey of faith begins and ends with grace – grace at the font, grace and forgiveness proclaimed throughout our lives and present in the body and blood of Christ, and finally grace at our leaving this world and going to the place God has prepared for us.
Grace is the free and unmerited love and forgiveness given to us by God through Jesus Christ.
On this second Sunday of Christmas, this last DAY of Christmas, we have a wonderful opportunity to remember that this gift of grace first came to us in the form of a baby.
When a pastor presides at Communion, the part I read or chant after the Great Thanksgiving, (where you and I go back and forth: The Lord be with you – and also with you. Lift up your hearts – we lift them to the Lord…), the next part the pastor does is called the “Proper Preface.” The proper preface for Christmas is one of my absolute favorites of the whole year.
The reason I love it so much is for this line: “that beholding the God made visible, we may be drawn to love the God whom we cannot see.”
It’s a lot easier for us people to grasp something when we can see it for ourselves. That’s why we have the saying, “Seeing is believing.”
It’s a lot easier for us people to believe in concepts such as “love” when love is demonstrated, not just talked about. That’s why we have the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”
God knows this. So The Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth. God wanted grace for us, mercy and forgiveness for us, to be more than a theological concept, to be more than an idea.
Through the Incarnation of Christ, Emmanuel, God WITH us, puts a “face on God’s grace.”
You know how companies get spokespeople who become the face of the brand? A few that come to my mind are the Marlboro Man, Jared for Subway, and Flo for Progressive Insurance.
I almost hate to make the comparison, because obviously God in Jesus is SO SO SO much more than this. Because in the end, Jesus isn’t just the “face of God’s grace,” Jesus IS God’s grace – and there’s a HUGE difference.
You’ve been told God loves you, but how do you KNOW? We ALL know, because Jesus came, and lived and DIED and rose again FOR that love.
God’s grace lavished on us in Jesus. Jesus FULL of grace. Grace upon grace. Grace heaped upon us.
We see in Jesus, the baby in the manger, the PERSONIFICATION of grace. His life helps us to understand what the word grace means – unmerited love and forgiveness.
You want to know what grace is? How HUGE it is? You want to know if God loves you?
Seeing is believing. Actions speak louder than words.
Look to the manger. Look to the cross.
“That beholding the God made visible, we may be drawn to love the God whom we cannot see.”