December 25, 2022

December 25, 2022: Christmas Day
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin
Readings: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-14

From the Gospel according to John, “… the Word became flesh and lived among us…” I
speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good morning and a very Merry Christmas to you all!
Did you know that the Church has an official Christmas Day Proclamation? It references not
only biblical events, but also, events within the ancient Greek and Roman empires. Thus,
the birth of the Christ at Bethlehem – Christmas Day - is described within the context of
human history – history both sacred and secular – and in so doing offers us a challenge. It
challenges us to always remember that the Christian faith is lived within the context of
contemporary society – a society that so often is desperate to hear good news and to be at
peace with itself, its citizens, and neighbors.
Hear the words of that Proclamation:
“Today, the twenty-fifth day of December, following unknown ages from the time when
God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in God’s own
image. Thousands of years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a
sign of the covenant. Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen
centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. Eleven hundred years from the
time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand and thirty-two years from the anointing of
David as king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
“In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year
from the foundation of the city of Rome. The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian
Augustus; the whole world being at peace,
“Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by
his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having
passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
“Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.”
I could not help but think of that proclamation in light of our reading from the Gospel
according to John. You see, while Matthew and Luke offer details about the birth of the
Christ, and the Christmas Proclamation retells the history of our salvation from the moment
of creation, John sums up the entire Christmas story in these nine words: “the Word was
made flesh and lived among us.” And it is the simplicity of those words that describes not
only the significance and blessing of Christmas, but also confronts us with a challenge just
as it has confronted every Christian since that day at Bethlehem.
See, in John’s mind, Christmas happened long before Bethlehem. John offers that the
Christ has always existed as God’s own self present from before the creation of the
universe. But it is that phrase, the “Word was made flesh” that poses the greatest challenge
to us. For the Christmas story is not simply God’s story or a story from two thousand years
ago. It is our story – a story that should continue to permeate our every day lives. A story
that lives on through us as the Word made flesh becomes who we are.
Now, how is that possible? I have shared with you that in my own journey of faith, there
have been many times when I lost my way, when I knew I was heading in the wrong
direction but couldn’t put my finger on the reason why. There have been times when God
seemed strangely silent, and times when I grew perplexed that my prayers went
unanswered. Times when scripture made no sense to me and times when the complexities
of life seemed to overwhelm me to the point of absolute despair. More often than not, it was
in those moments of darkness that I encountered the “Word (still) made flesh.” No, I didn’t
have some sort of beatific vision. No, that Word became flesh to me through a simple note
in the mail, or someone saying that they prayed for me, or offering a word of counsel and in
so doing, helped me find my way forward. It was in those moments that the “Word made
flesh” became my reality as I discovered, saw, and heard the Christ present and alive in a
stranger, priest, or friend. In them I encountered Christ in the flesh, and it changed my life
and still changes it today.
And that brings us back to the challenge stated at the start of this sermon: the challenge
that our faith – the Christian faith – is lived and embodied within the context of
contemporary life.
You see, everyone who has been marked as Christ’s own in baptism has promised to not
only carry forth Christ’s light and strive to be God’s redemptive and peacemaking presence
in our communities and the world, but we have also promised to forgive, to love, to be just
and merciful, to serve all and lift them up. We are called to be like Christ and as Christ, to
be and embody that Word made flesh, and, thereby, continue God’s mission of reconciliation
and restoration in this world. And that, friends, is the eternal challenge for every Christian:
We are called to be that “Word made flesh” in ways that make a difference in the lives of
every person we encounter.
Friends, “Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.” And by God’s
grace may that flesh – that miracle known as Christmas - continue to live in and through us
this day and always. Amen.