John 1:1-14 “The Birth, Our Birth”
December 25, 2013 – Caitlin Trussell
Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO
John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 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.
This morning we come to celebrate a birth. Not just any birth…but a birth that shines light into the darkness, a birth that changes the world. God has been active in history before the birth of Jesus. Connecting the moment of this birth to all of God’s history, the gospel writer uses those powerful words, “In the beginning…” These words that John uses to introduce the Word can also be heard in the very first verse of Genesis.  This connection draws a huge arc through time, space, and place, between the birth of creation to the birth of Jesus.
So while Luke spends time on the human details of shepherds and a manger, John spends time on the cosmic ones. Where Luke’s words are a simple story, John’s words elevate us into poetic mystery. We could leave it there, in those mysterious heights. We could keep at a distance this mysterious poetry that many discard as too heady or inaccessible. Many theologians do. Except…except…John doesn’t leave it dangling out in the mystery of the cosmos, untouchable or inaccessible.
John brings the Word straight to the ground. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” This God who created…who made promises through Abraham, who brought freedom through Moses, who instigated challenge through the prophets, who gave guidance through kings…this God became flesh. A mysterious, inaccessible, cosmic God becomes a God that is part of our common humanity, through common flesh. God taking on flesh to join us in our humanity is the birth we celebrate this morning. It is why some people call today the Festival of the Incarnation rather than Christmas. God incarnate simply means God in a body – or as John likes to put it, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
God living among us in Jesus is a cause for celebration this Christmas. Not simply because God showed up but because God immerses in the struggle of humanity. As John writes, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Light moving in the dark; day against night. This language may be poetic but we get it when someone talks about their darkness:
The darkness of someone we love living with a mental illness that is difficult to treat.
The darkness of grief and the confusion it brings to daily life.
The darkness of disease, acute or chronic, that seems to take up more space than anything else.
If we could sit and talk about the darkness, each one of us could name a way that it affects our lives or the life of someone we love. It is into this real struggle, this darkness, that Jesus is born. Jesus who continues to bring light that reveals God in the midst of the worst that life brings – a light that brings hope as we are born children of God.
Our birth as children of God is ‘not of blood.’ This birth gives us hope that “we will not be subject to the frailties of human flesh forever.” Our birth as children of God is “not of the will of the flesh”. This birth gives us hope that “we are more than our desires.” Our birth as children of God is not “of the will of humans.” This birth gives us hope that “we will not always be subject to the whim and will of others.” As children of God, our lives have meaning over against anything we can come up with to say they don’t
Our birth as children of God allows us to see the transcendent, cosmic God up close and personal in the person of Jesus. So that when we celebrate Emmanuel (God with us) we celebrate the hope that is given to us as we are born children of God. To this and to all God is doing we can say, “Merry Christmas!”
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”
 Genesis is the first book of the Bible’s 66 books. Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…”
 David Lose on Working Preacher, December 25, 2010. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=857