First Sunday Of Christmas & Feast Of St John
Contributed by Ian Bullock on Dec 23, 2020 (message contributor)
Summary: How St John can inspire us to share the good news of Christ
In the name of the Living God, Father, son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today as we gather for the first Sunday after Christmas, we also take the time to celebrate St. John the apostle and evangelist.
But before we talk about John, we should begin by breaking the stigma of what evangelist means, because many hear the word, and think of those who we see on the street corner, quoting hellfire and damnation, or perhaps a TV Evangelist.
However, at its base form Evangelist is derived from a group of New Testament Greek words, and simply means, to proclaim the good news.
But back to John, we remember him as one of the apostles who was present at the transfiguration on the holy mountain, seated with Christ at the last supper and described in the gospels as the disciple He loved.
John was also present with Christ in His agony in the garden and the one who stood with His mother Mary, at the foot of the cross and he watched in sorrow as Christ gave His life for our salvation.
It is argued by many theologians and scholars that John wrote five of the books of the New Testament, and he is depicted in Christian art as an eagle, the animal which soars high into the heavens with a grace which seems almost effortless. This echoes how John was held in high regard as he was considered as a man who soared to the heights of exploration into the depth of the meaning of our faith.
The eagle is also to many a symbol of strength and inspiration, and so it is no wonder that many churches have lecterns that are crafted in this style, and that the scripture is read from there.
John uses his writings in such a way that we not only learn from his gospel, but they also allow us to also engage with them in a very personal way, and as we heard on Christmas Eve and day we were invited to enter into the mystery of Christ through the poetry of John’s prologue, as we hear the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the word made flesh, and that He brings grace and truth to all who believe in him.
Very few of the disciples escaped suffering and endured execution in one form or other. John however was one of the apostles who wasn’t martyred for his faith, he died in Ephesus after living into his nineties, which for the 1st century was an impressive age.
John was a man who wasn’t afraid of proclaiming his faith, and it’s clear through his writings that the faith that he had was solid, sure, and built upon the foundation of his unwavering belief in Christ, and all characteristics that we find in every one of the disciples post resurrection.
But how does all of this aid each of us in our Christian walk?
As I sat thinking about these passages, I thought about how are they related, and what message they give to us today just two days after we have celebrated the birth of the Christ child.
In todays gospel, we see John recording Christ’s words to Peter to ‘follow me’ which had been said just after his restoration after denying Christ prior to crucifixion, and in 1 John we see the outworking of these words. John is literally sharing what he and the other disciples had seen, so that others could come to faith themselves.
In some ways it was easier for them, they had no reason to doubt or falter because they had something we haven’t,
John, and the rest of the disciples had an advantage over us, they had seen Christ, they walked and talked with him, they shared fellowship with him while he was here on earth, and for them it would have been much, much easier for them to follow a messiah that they had physically been with.
But we don’t have that same luxury as they did, our belief, our hope; our salvation is not grounded in the physical knowledge of Christ as a person, flesh and blood here with us upon earth.
Our faith is grounded upon our belief in Christ, and the experiences that we have had, the times we have felt something that we cannot explain, the times when our souls have lifted in joy, the times when we have known utter peace, and through the writing and teaching that have been left for us, to aid us on our journey of faith.
It’s also important for use to remember that a little earlier in John’s Gospel this very issue is addressed when Thomas sees the risen Christ in the upper when he said to Thomas, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’