To watch the video, click HERE

“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.”  John 1:14

In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

As I sat in prayer, asking God to give me some guidance for this sermon, my eyes fell upon the above words which precede today’s Gospel Lesson. To me, they are the very foundational statement of our Christian faith. Let me repeat them:

“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.”  John 1:14

In Christian circles, we hear a lot about something called the Word of God. Originally in the early church the term “Word of God” referred to Jesus himself. As we see from the Gospel according to John, the term “Word of God” spoke of  Jesus as the second person of the Holy Trinity during the earliest councils of the Church.

As time went on, the Church Fathers began to realize  that Jesus’ second coming might not happen during their own lifetimes, and so they began putting into writing the things they considered to be essentials of the faith, important articles of their faith and stories of their early struggles to be handed down to the generations of people who were to follow themselves. Through the years of the Church’s infancy, more and more Christian writings appeared.

Finally, it was necessary for the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, to call a number of worldwide councils to determine what were to be the official statements of the Christian faith. The products of those councils are many writings but especially important are what we call the Creeds and the Bible or Holy Scripture.

What are we looking for? The Epiphany has come. The arrival of the Magi signifies God’s revelation to the world of his only-begotten Son, the One who was, and is, and is to come, for the salvation of the world. Jesus the Christ has now come among us as our Incarnate Savior. What now? As we focus our hearts on his revealed Presence and listening for guidance from God the Holy Spirit, we begin to respond to this mighty action of our Heavenly Father by proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Lord of all that is. He is Light and life and freedom from darkness. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.

As we rejoice in our ever-present remembrance of his Incarnation, God himself comes to us as a new presence, not simply as an “out there Majesty” but also as one of us. Here, as we celebrate week by week the Holy Mysteries, The Holy Eucharist, the Mass, we share in a holy mystery which we cannot as yet begin to comprehend or understand. Here, as a human being, as a sacrificial Lamb, as the one and only Word from God, is God himself, still remaining fully God, yet who has become a human being. Fully human. Yes, God has become one of us. Perfect God, yet at one and the same time, perfect human being, perfect sacrifice. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.

As we rejoiced in the announcement of God’s love and favor to us we sang, “Joy to The World!” Joy. What is joy? What does that word mean to us?

The word Joy can mean different things depending upon the context of the occasion and the surroundings in which it is used.

It can be used to describe the excitement over an anticipation of some tangible thing or perhaps an accomplishment that we greatly desire. A child anticipates with joy the opening of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. A young, or not so young couple starting a new life together anticipate the joy of their marriage ceremony or the birth or adoption of children. You can probably think of many examples of joyful anticipation, the joyful fulfillment of a dream, a joyful acknowledgement of blessings. But surely, that is not the complete meaning of the word joy! Isn’t there a far deeper, a much less transient meaning to the word?

We have celebrated the joyful arrival of the One who is our salvation. The angels, representing the heavenly hosts, the shepherds, representing the Jewish nation, and the Wise Men, representing the gentile nations, all have arrived, worshipped and gone. What is in the joy that is still present within us now? Where do we go from here?

According to most Christian writers, true joy must come from the Lord. The spiritual writer, Martin Lloyd-Jones has written that true joy “Is the response and the reaction of the human soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” For me, true joy is a permanent, lasting gladness of the heart. It is an inward journey which for me leads ever more deeply into the knowledge and love of God as he has been made known to me in Jesus Christ. At my asking, at my invitation, Jesus enters ever more deeply into my heart of hearts, my soul, my awareness of his presence within and without.

Truly Jesus, the One who is the true light of the world, becomes ever more clearly, my brother, my Savior, my light along life’s pathway, my closest friend and my daily companion. For me, Jesus Christ is the one gift that brings real and lasting happiness, who fills the once empty space within my heart and satisfies my hunger, the hunger which feeds my search for my identity, my purpose in life, my spiritual center, my own place in God’s creation.

Yes, here we begin with the holy child of Bethlehem. We do not know the details of his early life. We know almost nothing for certain from the time of his circumcision and presentation in the temple, from the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt to escape the murderous King Herod and their return to Nazareth where scripture says he grew in wisdom and stature. We hear little until his Mother discovered the whereabouts her missing Son as a preteen talking with the elders in the temple. Our knowledge of his young life remains hidden or uncertain until the proclamation of John the Baptiser appears, paving the way for Jesus’ entrance into history. By then, he was in his early thirties and this event signaled the beginning of his earthly ministry.

Joy to the world. The excitement surrounding his birth had worn off. Did anyone remember? Had the memory of the events surrounding his Nativity faded? Was the prophecy of his future kingship even a distant memory? Once more the world seemed lost and empty. God’s people craved more, a need for something, for meaning in their present life, something beyond the pleasure of a past promise or a future hope.

Part of our growing into mature mental health and vital spirituality involves the awareness that true joy, lasting joy comes, not from what is given to us, nor from what happens to us, but from what happens in us.

As the world awaited the movement, the movement of his life saving arm, of his earthly ministry, of the loving touch of the One who is the Light of the world, through John the Baptist, a reawakening of the world to his presence began. John appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It was a seemingly small and a slow beginning, but the central event in all of human history had begun.

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” John 1:10-12

Jesus’ early disciples had the pleasure of knowing him and enjoying his presence among them. But even as they recognized him as a teacher, as a rabbi worth following, as someone very special, as a unique person, perhaps even the Messiah, they did not at first realize the full measure of who he truly was, of who he truly is.

After these many years of much war and little genuine peace, of hopes and fears, of amazing saints and hapless sinners, we still find a world longing to see its hope of joy become a realization. We see a world in which so many fail to find the peace of God promised by and through the life of our risen Savior.

To  those of us who care to listen, we can still hear the sighs and cries of a world which, with all of our worldly treasures has grown weary, a world of amazing technology and yet a world whose batteries seem to be in danger of running down, a world which once again has lost its way.

Much of our world is still looking for a “fixer”, a Savior, a Messiah, a leader who will put the world and our own hearts at rest and lead us into paradise.  So many as yet fail to see Jesus Christ as the promise of fulfillment from our loving Creator and Father. He is the One who through prophets sages, missionaries, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, and so many of his saints, his holy men and women, his messengers, the angels and the prophets, have been granted the knowledge of the way to life’s fulfillment. To those who still await the sound of the Savior’s voice, listen:

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” John 1:10-12

 Let us pray. Father, help us to look to you always and to seek with prayer your Incarnate Presence among us. Help us to grow into our faith with the assurance that our Lord Jesus is the Christ, the One who is among us as our Sacrificial Lamb, our beloved brother, our best friend, our Savior and our constant companion along the way. Amen. 

Surely he is worthy of our simple act of faith and gratitude. Surely he is worthy of our serious attention and sincere act of faith. In the hymn, “In the Cold Midwinter” a child asks, ‘What gift shall I give him?’  What gift can we offer that could compare with the gift he offers us? The little child knew the answer: In a childlike grasp of the obvious often escaping others the child replied, “My heart”. May this be our gift to a groaning world that has lost its way.  The only genuine gift that we can give, really, because it is the gift above all gifts that we have been given that is truly ours to give. Amen.