In the beginning was the Word....
2009-12-30 by Adam Grosch
Jesus is human and experienced a human birth. People get this. Kids are able to comprehend this pretty well. Perhaps too well.
Several years ago during vacation bible school, I was teaching the lesson to a variety of different age groups. The most theological group discussion ended up taking place in one of the youngest classes - the first graders. I asked the students in the class to name some of the things that God had created. This question came out of a lesson where I taught that God gives life to all living things and that God created everything in the universe. It was an easy enough lesson and an easy enough question that really could have no wrong answer. At least I thought. Then one of the students offered: God created his only Son Jesus when he brought him into the world.
As I was reading the prologue to John today this first grade class came rushing back to me. The kid's answer was a beautiful answer admidst many of the others that talked about their favorite material posessions. But actually, I had to stop their answering in order to tell them that actually, God's Son has existed as a person of the trinity since the beginning of time. When that person of the trinity took on flesh and was born in the person of Jesus - God entered into the world and while this was a new thing - the Son of God wasn't a new creation.
The conversation that ensued ended up pushing our class a few minutes late. I am not sure they got it. But I think they maybe got it better than I do.
John's point is that God who is fully revealed in Jesus has always been the same God. Father, Son, and Spirit have all been present since the beginning of time - we just didn't know this until the Word was made flesh and came to dwell among us.
The "other" Christmas Story (John 1)
2009-12-29 by Adam Grosch
Whenever we talk about Christmas we say that only two of the gospels offer to us the Christmas story. But I as I have been thinking about the meaning of Christmas and reading the gospel lection for this Sunday, I am wondering if John does not get to the heart of Christmas even more so than Matthew and Luke.
Christmas has always seemed to pale in comparison to Easter. The resurrection, after all, is the central point of the entire gospel. Without the resurrection, would we even celebrate the birth of Jesus? Christianity seems to hinge on Easter; and Christmas, a significantly less important holiday had been blown up by a capitalist society taking advantage of the reference to the men from the east coming and giving gifts to the baby Jesus.
This understanding seems accurate to me as people repeat the sentimental stories of the manger scene with shepherds, angels, and the magi. Christmas seems not much more than a nostalgic and sentimental holiday. As we sing “Happy Birthday Jesus” during the Christmas Eve Children’s service, the holiday seems to lose more and more credibility. Here we were celebrating the birth of Jesus – and only two of the gospel writers even bothered to mention anything about Jesus’ birth. Seemed to me the feeding of the 5000, included in all the gospels, is more significant to the gospel writer’s than Jesus’ birthday.
But as I was reading the other birth narrative, the one we find in John, God “hit” me with a “new” appreciation for Christmas. And when God “hit” me, it was a “duh” moment. And I felt really dumb for going all Christmas without thinking about it. It has been right there in front of me and is so obvious. I am sure everyone else sees it, but somehow I had missed it this year. I feel dumb – missing what seems to me now to be the central point of Christmas.
My “new” realization coming out of the first chapter of John is that Christmas is not really just about Jesus’ birthday. Sure it is this, but more importantly, Christmas is the time when we celebrate the incarnation. The incarnation meaning “the Word became flesh and lived among us, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (v.14).” Christmas is when we give thanks to God and rejoice in the fact that God came into this world to live with us and as one of us. The incarnation celebrates the fact that the material and the bodily matter. Christianity is not just about the spiritual, but it is about the physical. God becomes someone we can touch, someone we can feel, someone who is physically real. The incarnation means that life on earth matters and that the earth matters. The incarnation means that God knows what it means to be human. And it is through the incarnation that we can know God. The incarnation is big. Like the resurrection, it is not easily understood and not easily grasped. It is giving me plenty to think about – much more than the simple manger scene and re-telling of Jesus’ birth.
Is Christmas Over?
2009-12-28 by Adam Grosch
As I begin to think about preaching this Sunday I am reminded that we will still be in the Christmas season. At least that is what our church calendar says. This may be a surprise to many of our congregants when they show up for worship. I mean, the Christmas season is really in December and climaxes on Christmas Eve, right? Most will be getting back to church now that the business of Christmas has ended. Yesterday, worship attendance at our church was about half of what it was during advent. By many measures Christmas is over. This Sunday the kids will be thinking more about going back to school than the excitement of Christmas from well over a week ago. Others will be more concerned with the beginnings of a new year and may be thinking about those new year resolutions that may already seem more daunting than they realized. For many Christmas will be a distant memory.
All signs of Christmas disappear so quickly. The very day after Christmas our Boy Scout Troop hosted a Christmas Tree recylcing drive. After all the preparations for Christmas, people seem ready to get rid of Christmas and get on with their lives. Just about all of the Christmas lights that were up in my neighborhood are already gone.
But if the good news of Christmas is God-with-us - this good news isn't just for one night. It continues throughout the year and this Sunday as people are already beginning to get back into their normal schedules - it may be appropriate to remind them that God-with-us means that God is still here.
2009-12-28 by Adam Grosch
Greetings. My name is Adam Grosch and I have the privilege of blogging my thoughts on this Sunday's text. I am a graduate of Duke Divinity School and currently I serve as Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Salem, Oregon.
2009-12-23 by David von Schlichten
For my Christmas Eve sermon I will pretend to be a contemporary Joseph on the brink of becoming the most famous stepfather in history. He will be a young man with huge obstacles and huge doubts about the world but who finds hope in the Baby.
My prayer is that the sermon will help people to learn to see God giving hope in the small births of their lives. Any advice? I will post the sermon at the cafe sometime soon.
Beneath this post is one from Ro Ruffin about the lessons for this Sunday.
Wishing you a soothing and rejuvenating Christmas, I am
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
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