Summary: A sermon about Jesus coming to live with us.
"God Moved into the Neighborhood"
The first verses of the Gospel of John contain the themes of the entire Book:
"God, the Creator of the universe has come into the world He created in order to save it.
He has been rejected by many, but to all who believe He has given the power to become children of God and to have the gift of eternal life."
This is the summary statement of the Gospel of John, and then one verse--verse 14 is the climax that summarizes the summary: "The Word became flesh and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."
Eugene Peterson, in his very contemporary rendering of the Bible, called The Message, put this verse like this:
"The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish."
God became a flesh and blood human being and moved into the neighborhood.
I think that is a really cool way of putting it.
And you'd think that God would have moved into the sweetest neighborhood with the best neighbors!
But look at who Jesus chose to make His neighbors.
He moved in right next door to dirty, desperate, lonely, dark, unfaithful, unbelieving, inadequate and insecure, disappointed, sick irreligious people.
Jesus moved in and Jesus made friends with them.
He sat with them, He touched them.
He walked with them.
He partied with them.
He cried with them.
He talked with them.
He worshiped with them.
He ate with them.
He lived and died for them.
That's Who God is.
And that's such Good News for all people!!!
I was having a conversation with a colleague last week about declining church attendance when he said something neat.
He said, "We have the greatest news in the world.
It's the only really good news in a world that is so desperate for good news."
And what is true today was true 2,000 years ago: "The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn't recognize the light.
The light came to his own people, and his own people didn't welcome him."
A few chapters later in John 3:19 we are told: "The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do wicked things hate the light and don't come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light."
How come we love darkness so much?
What is so good about it?
There is no love in darkness.
There is no future in the darkness.
The darkness is such a sad place to be.
Clair and I drove to Cincinnati a few days ago in order to celebrate my dad's 89th birthday.
On the car ride up, we read a book out loud.
The book was about human sex trafficking, and it was written by a woman who spent two years as a sex-slave from the ages of 15-17.
It is a horrific tale.
It was an incredibly depressing book.
After reading it, Clair and I meditated on how we, as humans, can be so mean, so brutal, so cruel.
We are indeed, all of us, capable of great and terrible evil.
Clair said that this is what bothers her most about life.
Yes, there is a thick, dense darkness which covers our world and seeks to claim God's creatures as its own.
It is easy to lose our way in this thick darkness.
It's easy to lose our soul, our moral compass, our compassion, our humanity.
When the God Who created the world, put on flesh and blood "and moved into the neighborhood" He didn't move into some sweet little "Hollywood Soundstage" that doesn't really exist.
God moved into your neighborhood.
God moved into my neighborhood.
And that is Good News for all people.
God comes to where we are, to where we live and shines His light so that we may see that there is a different way to live.
There is a way that is God's way.
There is a way to have a fulfilling and worthwhile experience during our short stay on this earth.
We don't have to live in the darkness if we don't want to.
Could there possibly be any better news?
According to the latest statistics, the violent crime rate in East Ridge, Tennessee is more than twice the average for the entire United States.
And compared to all our nearest cities: Fort Oglethorpe, Rossville, Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, Ringgold, Chickamauga and Red Bank our violent crime rate is second only to Chattanooga.