Summary: Sermon for Christmas Day, Year B.
Christmas Day Yr B, 21/12/2014
Heb 1:1-2; Jn 1:3-5, 9
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
“The Word and Light Incarnate”
For many folks, this time of year is very stressful because of their high expectations of themselves and others. On the lighter side, I came across ten things that help you know Christmas is almost here when: 1) The infamous fruitcake returns from its 12 months of hiding. 2) The NHL referees are not the only ones giving away games. 3) Santa’s belly is not the only thing shaking like a bowl of jelly. 4) Your Christmas list is written in black while your checkbook balance is written in red. 5) You are pulling an all-nighter because of the words “Some assembly required.” 6) The Salvation Army bell ringers start accepting credit cards. 7) A trip to the mall and back is more challenging than the Indy 500. 8) It’s a Wonderful Life has been shown for the 13th time. 9) The credit card is smoked along with the turkey and ham. 10) There are more pine needles on your carpet than on your tree.1
Hopefully for you Christmas is more than all of the things that add stress to your life. Both our passage from Hebrews and our gospel today speak “the moreness” of Christmas. The Hebrews passage reminds us that the long ago and far away became the here-and-now closeness of God to humankind in the person of Jesus. The prophets who had visions of a Messiah spoke of the day he would come and longed for that day. For them though he still seemed long ago and far away, even though they likely lived with the longing to see the Messiah in their lifetime. In the gospel Jesus the Word existed in the long ago and far away creating the universe—then, one day Jesus the Word became flesh and lived among us in the here-and-now. The gospel writer also refers to Jesus as the light, shining in the darkness. Light that the darkness is not able to overcome or put out.
A Mr. Anderson was in London, and of all the things he saw and did the one that stood out most clearly was a visit to Nelson’s flagship, the Victory.
A young sailor, his face aglow with pride—showed him around and when they reached a little cabin, he pointed to the very spot where Nelson died.
Suddenly the sailor switched off the lights and had it not been for a solitary candle that flickered above them, they would have stood in darkness.
“You know, I’ll never forget it. When the lights went off and by that flickering flame I could almost see Trafalgar unfolding before my eyes.” It’s a bit like life, I thought later. For often, what is really worthwhile isn’t to be found in the spotlights, but rather in the places where a humble light burns perpetually.2 Jesus coming in the flesh to live among us; born in a barn at a small place like Bethlehem; born to ordinary folks; yet he was the eternal Word that created all things and the Light of the world.
Jesus, a tiny, fragile, vulnerable baby in an insignificant corner of the world; yet, his humble beginning as a human being now has significance for the whole world and has drawn to himself millions upon millions of people down through the ages and right up to the present day. This small, humble beginning of Jesus’ birth reminds me of another story.
On Christmas Eve, 1937, an Australian radio announcer, Norman Banks, was sitting at the window of his Melbourne flat when he heard music from the open window opposite. There he saw an old woman with a lighted candle in her hand listening to a carol.
This fired his imagination and the following Christmas, he held his first open-air Carols by Candlelight service—a custom that has since spread all over Australia. The Melbourne service, which has been held each year since, has been broadcast round the world, millions have shared in it, and thousands have been raised for charity, all because of that old woman with her candle.3 It is amazing how one person lighting a candle in Australia could inspire millions around the globe to do the same. Jesus the light in the darkness can and does overcome the darkness.
Speaking of Christmas Eve Candlelight services, back in 2008, when I was serving Grace Lutheran in Medicine Hat; our acolyte Leona was extinguishing all of the candles at the end of the service. When she came to the Christ Candle on our Advent wreath, Leona made three unsuccessful attempts to extinguish it. Finally, on the fourth attempt, it was extinguished.
This reminded me of the Christmas Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Ultimately, Christ the Light of the world shall extinguish all darkness; we shall live in his Light eternally.