Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on Christmas Day, December 25, 2015
[sermon begins after the Bible reading, Hebrews reading is at end of post]
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.
Way back in Genesis, in the beginning of the Bible, the ancient writers describe a time before Earth-time.  There is a dark, formless void that no one is quite sure about. Creation stories form out of that void as God speaks and God creates, “In the beginning…” In the Bible reading this Christmas Day, the gospel writer of John takes us way back to that beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Word and God, before time and in the beginning of time.
In the beginning, something happened that broke the relationship God created. After plenty of millennia in which the world has struggled and continues to struggle through today, I’ve grown comfortable with calling whatever is broken “sin.” Sin helps me name the struggle within myself. You might use the language of flaw or weakness or challenge. I’m pretty good with the language of sin. It’s a word that digs deep and reveals much that is true in my own life. Sin separates, hurts, and blocks me from seeing the good in me or anyone else, including God. Sin has me justifying my actions and thoughts over and against anyone else, including God.
What does God to do restore the broken relationship with humankind that came through sin so soon after creation? What does God do to free us from our sin that divides and destroys? God needs to communicate with us on our own terms. Communicating in a way that is suited to the human condition. Thankfully, over and against my sin, is a Word from God. A Word that brings life into being. A Word that communicates and gives life. A Word that forms, reforms and restores relationships. A Word made flesh. A fleshy Word that the Gospel of Luke tells us is a baby in a manger announced by angels and surrounded by his young parents, shepherds, and animals. A baby whom Mary is told will be called Son of God. A baby named Jesus.
A baby named Jesus, a fleshy Word through whom all things were made and in whom is life – the life that is the light of all people, a light that darkness cannot overcome. And with these words of light and darkness we arc back through the creation story in Genesis one more time, sent sling-shot through darkness and light. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light…and God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
A baby named Jesus, Son of God, a fleshy Word who is the light of all people. Listening to the many layers of the Christmas story, and the Gospel of John’s prologue in particular, is like hearing many notes all at once in a musical chord. Like a complex chord, the effect moves through head and heart at the same time as we are moved through Genesis and John, through time and space, through light and dark, through Word and flesh, through God and Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Incarnation of the Word into flesh becomes God’s way of communicating with us in a manner suited to our human condition. Incarnation is the length to which God will go to get through to us. We are sensate creatures – we see, we touch, we hear. So God calls through the cry from a manger and the groans from a cross. In the story of Jesus that follows his birth, God communicates in Jesus’ actions and also in his words. Jesus enacts life-giving power. God’s radical, subversive action in terms we can grasp.
Christmas is the beginning of God coming to all people – expanding the eternal covenant made long ago through an ancient people. In that time, God spoke to the ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets. Now God is speaking to us through the Word made flesh, Jesus the Son of God.
Through Jesus, the Son of God, the Holy Spirit makes us children of God. The adoption process of God’s wayward, sinful creatures begins in the beginning and arcs through the incarnation, the Word made flesh. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection frees us from sin. Set free from the business of justifying our actions and thoughts over and against anyone else, or against God.
This Christmas, for you is the gift of Jesus, Son of God, a fleshy Word who is the light of all people. You are “children of God born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Merry Christmas!
In response to the sermon, the people sing a song called the Hymn of the Day. Today we sing, “What Child is This”
Listen here: http://www.spiritandsong.com/compositions/399
1. What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.
2. Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
3. So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come peasant, king, to own him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
 Genesis 1:1-2 “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
 Craig R. Koester. Narrative Lectionary 106: Word Made Flesh. Podcast for “I Love to Tell the Story” at WorkingPreacher.org on December 15, 2013. http://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_podcast.aspx?podcast_id=450
 Luke 1:35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”
 Luke 1:30-31 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.
 John 1:4-5
 Genesis 1:3-4
 John 1:4
 Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.
 John 1:12
 John 1:13
Hebrews 1:1-12 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.” 8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10 And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; 12 like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.”