YEAR C, 2ND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

 

John 1: 1-18.                           ( Sermon 1:” The Embodied Word”)

Ephesians 1:3-14                     (Sermon 2: “The Richest Person on Earth”)

Jeremiah 31: 7-14

Psalm 147: 12-20

 

 
CALL TO WORSHIP

 

Words are often cheap;

but not Christ, the living Word of God.

This Word is infinitely valuable,

it is worth far more than the whole universe!

 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

 

            OR—

 

The joy of the Lord, the very Word of God

as one of us, be with you all.

And also with you.

 

In the beginning the Word already was,

and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

And the Word became human flesh,

and lived among us, full of grace and truth.

Hallelujah!

 

ADORATION


Let us pray.

 

In the beginning , you God, just you; the Source and End of all things.

You are the Mystery we cannot penetrate,

the Power we cannot manipulate,

the Love we cannot measure.

In the beginning just you,. God: The mind-blowing, awesome, loving Author of all.

We bow in awe and adore you.

 

Yet you have spoken one ultimate, living Word to planet earth.

In Mary’s Child you become embodied, and have revealed yourself

to the poor and the meek, the foolish and the weak.

In Christ Jesus, your invaluable Word has come among us, and we have seen his glory.

We bow in awe and adore you.

 

God the holy Love-Mystery,

we adore you.

Christ Jesus, the Divine Word who became human flesh,

we adore you.

Holy Spirit, Light which can never be smothered,

we adore you.

 

You were and are and ever shall be, life and love and joy without end!

Amen!

 

 

CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

 

Let us repent, not only our evil deeds, but also our foolish words, and seek the mercy of the Living Word. Let us pray.

 

For covering our ignorance with slick speeches and whitewashing our sins with the sick chatter of self justification, forgive and save us.

Forgive and save us, holy Friend.

 

For rushing in with prattle when silence and awe are the only appropriate responses to your Living Word, forgive and save us.

Forgive and save us, holy Friend.

 

For trying to cramp your Word within the cages of our many denominational biases or theological fashions, forgive and save us.

Forgive and save us, holy Friend.

 

Most holy God, we can fool others sometimes, we can fool ourselves often, but we can never fool you. There is not a word on our tongue or a thought in our head, but you know it altogether. Please pity our foolish stunts and correct us, pity our wilful sinfulness and redeem us. Confront us with your incarnate Word: Surround us with it, capture us with it, enthral us with it, wrap us up in it and reshape our lives by it. In the name of Christ Jesus, we pray you.

Amen!

 

ASSURANCE

 

It is written: “To as many as receive Christ Jesus, he gives the authority and the power to become children of God.”

Trust him, and you will receive pardon and a new beginning.

Thanks be to God!

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

            (A ‘dialect’ prayer).

 

Dear God, I ‘ope yoos lisnin,

cos I got sumpinportant to tell yer:

 

Not all the guys ‘round ‘ere are smart ‘nuff to luv yer.

Sum of ‘em luv only ‘emselves.

Sum not even that.

 

That makes it ‘ard fer us to luv ‘em.

Y’  know?

 

Please ‘elpem to get smart and luv yer,

andelp kids like me to be more luvin to ‘em.

Like Jesus wos.

Y’  know?

Amen!

 

 

PSALM 147: 12-20

 

            Note: It feels strange reading this Psalm about winter in the mountains

                        at a time when Australia is sweltering in summer. Therefore I have repeated

                        the second and third sections in our context; see the bold print below.

 

Praise God, everyone!

Hallelujah!

 

We praise you, Lord of the eternal city of peace!

We praise you, God of the church universal!

For it is you who strengthens our gates

and blesses the children under our care.

 

You bring peace within our borders

and feed us with the finest bread.

You send orders across the landscape

and your word moves faster than light.

 

You carpet hills with fleeces of snow,

and in valleys scatter frost like white ashes.

You shape icicles into fairy sculptures.

yet at your word ice melts and streams flow.

 

You have spoken and called your people,

you have given us the ground rules of love.

You have not treated us like other creatures

for they cannot know you or sing your praises.

 

You bring peace within our borders,

and feed us with the finest bread.

You send orders across our continent

which move faster than the speed of light.

 

At your word the summer winds blow,

searing hot from the outback deserts .

The grasslands and lawns turn crisp,

things come to a standstill in a heatwave.

 

Yet at your word the temperature drops,

the winds gust in from the Southern Ocean.

You have spoken and called us by name,

and given us the ground-rules of love.

 

By your grace we are a lucky country,

unlike those who have nothing to sing about.

 

Praise God everyone!

Hallelujah!

Let everyone praise the Lord!

 

 

LIBERTY WORD

 

This Primal Word

            is not cramped in tombs

            or trapped in hoary creeds,

but moves untamed, free

            to raise up prophets

            from barren wombs.

 

This Living Word

            shapes its own law,

            forever saving

a fractious world

            and preparing ways

            untrod before.

 

This Loving Word

            seeks a new-age Eve,

            graces young Mary

with a task and Gift

            the strong and proud

            could not conceive.

                        ©  B.D. Prewer 1993

 

COLLECT

 

Most loving God, in Christ you speak a Word that can never become obsolete. Please renew

the force of your living Word in our lives, that without evasion or qualification, we may accept this living truth and serve it with the joyful abandonment who have known that in losing life for his sake, we find it more abundantly. In the name of the Creator, Saviour and

Inspirer.

Amen!

 

SERMON 1: THE EMBODIED WORD

 

John 1:14

 

The Word became human flesh, and lived among us, full grace and truth

And we have looked upon his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.   John 1:14

 

God’s Word, the ultimate message that God had to give to humanity if we were to be liberated and healed —

            was embodied in the Child of Mary, wife of Joseph the carpenter.

.

Millions of words tumbling from our mind and lips, could never be enough. Billions of words in libraries fell short. Trillions of words stored in our most powerful computers could not contain what God had to say.

God’s final Word was too heavy and complex, and yet too simple, for our words to handle.

 

The brave questions of Socrates and the philosophies of men from Plato to Aquinas to Heidegger, would ultimately leave us empty. The most choice words of poets and singers would not satisfy the human soul.. The visionary words of seers and prophets were pitifully inadequate. The disciplined, scientific words and mathematical formulae of, physicists and astronomers, would never be the final answer.

 

God had to put human flesh on the one Key Word —Embodied in a human life;  Jesus, the Jew whom we name the Christ.

 

DE-INCARNATION?

 

A Question:

 

Am I just crazy (don’t answer that.!) or am I right in thinking that the church often seems to be in the business of deincarnating the living Word; of turning the real Jesus, the flesh and blood Jesus, back into words?  Am I as a preacher a part of the sorry business of trying to disembody God’s True Word.?

 

Am I able to give an answer? I’m not sure. Maybe the answer is the kind which would make a barrister in a law court very testy. Maybe the true answer is “yes and no.”

 

YES! DE-INCARNATION

 

Let’s try the ‘yes’ bit first. 

 

Yes, we do risk reversing the incarnation whenever we make words about Christ more important than the deeds that express his loving reality.

 

De-incarnation happens ¾

Whenever speaking about Christ is more important than following him.

Whenever the exact phrases used in creeds become more essential than caring for one another.

Whenever denominational emphases override our common love of Christ.

Whenever the actual performance of liturgy means more than the event of spirit-worship.

 

De-incarnation t sadly happens¾

Whenever preaching sermons, and fluent oratory, becomes a preacher’s substitute for doing the Gospel.

Whenever the especially-Protestant habit of sermon tasting  (including grammar checks, doctrine savouring, and much mental muttering) overrides the desire to hear in a sermon the next thing that God wants us to do.

 

The travesty of de-incarnation happens¾

Whenever in church committees and councils, winning an argument and forcing our will on others, displaces a passion for seeing and serving Christ in the living body and blood of those who around us.

Whenever we reckon we have framed a smart “mission statement” for our congregation, and have it written on all our church bulletins and correspondence, yet fail to show the dogged courage and self sacrifice necessary to put the statement into practice.

 

Yes indeed,  the answer is yes! Far more often than I want to think about, we may have been agents of deincarnation: and so “the flesh becomes words, and waffles on among us, full of wind and----and----- Well you know what I mean!

 

NO! TO DE-INCARANTATION

 

On the other hand, No!

 

We don’t reincarnate the Living Word.  In fact I glory in the knowledge that the Word is often embodied by ordinary Christians in every walk of life.

            Sometimes our Gospel is indeed incarnate in  individual efforts.

            At other times it is expressed by the church as a community the body of Christ.

 

In many parishes where I have tried to serve Christ, I have found numerous Christians cropping up here and there in the community, among the various service clubs, welfare organisations, political lobby groups, civic structures, social justice agencies, and voluntary emergency services.

 

In fact, if all committed Christians were withdrawn, the fabric of many communities would collapse.

 

Today I want to salute these ordinary Christians who without the tooting of trumpets make Christ visible. The Word takes flesh and lives among us, and we see his glory, full of grace and truth.

 

I also wish to testify to the quiet influence of people in their work places. Men and women who by their attitude to workmates, the quality of their work, the way they handle themselves in difficult situations, and their integrity in business dealings, witness to the holy Incarnation.

 

Praise God for Christ’s —

            gardeners who see their work as a calling,

            for magistrates who care deeply for those brought before them,

            welders whose joints won’t crack,

            physiotherapists who see their hands doing Christ’s work,

            teachers who share love as well as knowledge,

            mothers who baptise their children with both cuddles, discipline and prayer,

            bus drivers who pray for skill and patience as they take their place behind the wheel,

            farmers who know they are co-workers with God

            and many, many more.

The Word becomes flesh and does live among us.

 

Without this host of ordinary Christians, the preacher’s task might be vain indeed. Every act of Christ-love, small or large, puts body into the Gospel.

 

At this point I was about to give you some examples from some of the choice Christians who have enriched my experience.. But I have changed my mind.

 

You already have examples in your own experience. Those special people, some of them (perhaps all of them) who may be insignificant in terms of national or international affairs, yet whose lives have put flesh on the Word of God for you.

 

Take a moment to call them to mind.

            Savour their influence, relish their memory.

            I give you a silent minute to bask again in the light of their love.

 

                                    ( silence)

 

It is good. You have glimpsed  the beauty of Christ in them, the acceptance and mercy of Christ in them; the compassion of Christ, the courage of Christ and the wisdom of Christ, the tenacity of Christ, the anger of Christ, the joy of Christ, the self-sacrifice of Christ in them.

 

DO WE WANT TO EMBODY CHRIST?

 

And now back to us.

 

Gently but firmly I ask you:

            Are we among those who really want  to embody Christ?

            Or are we among those who are content to make keep him disembodied in pious wordiness?

 

You will notice that I said those who want to embody Christ.  I did not say those who always make a major success of it. But those who try, who give it their best shot! Are we amongst the ‘fair dinkum’ triers?

 

The truth is that if we truly want to try, with an open heart and mind to Christ, then God can take care of the rest. God can make even our sincere failures, and our embarrassing blunders,  a source of fruitfulness.

 

If that were not true, I would not be standing before you at this moment.

 

 

SERMON 2: THE RICHEST PERSON ON EARTH

 

John 1:14

 

            And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. John 1: 14.

 

I dedicate this sermon to the richest person on earth.

 

Texts don’t come more simple, and yet more complex, than this one.

            And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. John 1: 14.

 

Paul expresses some of the same awesome glory in a few more words than does John:

            Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in Christ

            has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 1:3

 

To speak of a Word as a living person, may sound somewhat odd, or clumsy expression, or maybe a highbrow notion to common folk. Maybe it even sounds odd to some members who have travelled many years on the Christian road? Could be?

 

Let’s admit that “words” in our society come by the truck load.

 

Words are little printed signs; things in a dictionary which we string together like beads in order to communicate. Words are sounds made with air from our lungs, that easily fly off our tongues in voluminous quantities.

 

The atmosphere is stew of billions of words. Many of them repetitious and light-weight or deceitful words.

 

WORDS; THEIR SHAME AND GLORY

 

What is more, because many people are devious, therefore we have rightly become suspicious of words.

 

We dare not take on face value the chatter

of politicians, financial institutions like banks, sales persons at our door, marketeers on our phone just a we sit down for dinner, TV adds and newspapers, wonder cures for every ailment, religious or environmental zealots, or those shrewd entertainers who claim to talk with our dead loved ones from the great beyond. The truth is that too many people are not present in their own words. There is a gulf between the person and their words. We have the right to be suspicious.

 

To our shame, we have all devalued words.

Some people who have read billions of such words, and heard billions of words, spoken millions of words, marinate in billions of words, yet they remain illiterate and in gross spiritual poverty.

 

In absolute contrast, from the Bible point of view,

God and God’s word are inseparable.  No gulf. They are the same ultimate Reality¾ spelt with a very big R! The Word of God is always personal in the Bible. God’s Word is a Person. The Word is God. The Word is the Holy One personally active in creating and shepherding the world and its people.

 

THE ORIGINS OF JESUS

 

Where does Jesus of Nazareth fit in?

 

For God, one ultimate Word is crucial.

 

All 4 Gospel writers are Evangelists,

who commence their story by asserting the remarkable family roots of Jesus of Nazareth.

Matthew and Luke take us back to his birth: Matthew has a family tree going back to Abraham. Luke’s family tree goes back to Adam, and then one step beyond that; the Creator..

The roots of Jesus are in God.

 

Mark starts when Jesus is about 29-30 years of age.

He presents the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, with the doors of heaven opening, the Holy Spirit alighting on Jesus like a dove, and God speaking: “You are my much-loved Son; with you I am very pleased.

 

John  pushes us further and even deeper. 

He thrusts us back to the start of creation and beyond the beginning. Before time and space. These days we might well say: “before the Big Bang.”

 

John deliberately echoes those opening words of the Bible in Genesis:

 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

 

 John majestically announces—

            “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And we looked upon his glory, glory belonging to the only Son of the Father.”

 

John leaves us no doubt as to the awesome roots of Christ Jesus.

Nor about the inestimable wealth that God bestows in him. He has no hesitation in saying why this Jesus is worth more than anything else. He is the very true Word of God.

 

THE ULTIMATE WORD

 

Here is the ultimate and richest Word.

It became visible in our midst.  Nothing is more important than this Word. Nothing in the future can be ever become more important than this humble Word that became embodied and lived among us  Full of grace and truth.

 

This Word  marked by the utter truth.

No more empty words here. No more misleading words. No more exploiting words. Truth. Living truth. Liberating and healing truth.

 

It is also marked by the wealth of grace.

Grace: the unexpected, unstoppable, bonus-love of God; mercy beyond measuring. Oveflowing, saving love. Liberating and healing grace.

 

            Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in Christ

            has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 1:3

 

The ultimate Word is for us, unconditionally pro-human. For you. For me. True for all time and eternity. Any person who knows this and trusts this, is the richest person on earth.

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

 

THE ONE WORD GREATER THAN ALL BOOKS

 

While still a young minister,

I was once in a seminar where one lovely pastor, in his fifties, sincerely lamented the fact that his time was running out and there was so much more that he would like to read. “If I live to be eighty and read three books per week for the rest of my life, I will still have only read another 3,900 books! That leaves an enormous number unread!”

 

I have a passion for books myself.

Although not as much as that dear man. I found his statement moving and loved him for his obvious passion.

 

Yet if I lived to be ten thousand years old

and read most of the words in the books of all the libraries of the world, I would have nothing better to say than this — The Word became flesh.

 

 “Trust this one living Word that wears our human flesh..

  Bet your one life on it. Stake your all on Christ Jesus.”

 

I am the richest man on earth. But that is not all. I also know that no matter how much of this fortune is shared by others, my own portion does not diminish by one cent. You too can inherit this same wealth.

 

You too can be the richest person on earth.

 

 

A CREED-PRAYER

 

We believe, praise and thank you, loving God, for you have visited and redeemed your people.

 

In the fullness of time your Word shared our human frailty, living as a baby, a child, a youth and an adult in this remarkable, yet at times crazy, world.

 

We believe that in Jesus we have been shown what you are always like; that his light is

your light, his truth the divine truth, his peace and love is the peace and love that lasts forever.

 

We believe that in childhood you are our closest friend, in teenage years the inspiration of our dreams, in mature years the guide and counsellor, and in the eventide you are the deathless companion.

 

Because of Christ Jesus, the living Word, in our laughter you are our joy, in sickness our healing, in turmoil our serenity, and in our grief,  you are that sweetest peace which this busy world cannot give.

 

We believe in you, we trust you,  and we worship you,  God most wonderful!

 

Amen!

 

INTERCESSIONS

 

God our holy Friend, by the Word of your supreme love in Christ Jesus, enlarge our vision so that we may pray with ample faith and hope.

 

Speak to your church, busy at worship and service around this planet. Especially we commend to you those branches of the church about which we are most ignorant, and those with whom we seem to have least common ground.

Jesus, Word of God,  make your church truly your body, with love to the world.

 

Give your Word of hope to all outcaste and dispossessed people; those who have been made outsiders in the own country, and those who are trying to establish themselves in a new land.

Jesus, Word of God, encourage the least among these your sisters and brothers.

 

Speak to the leaders of our nation, states and territories. Cut through the propaganda of their ‘minders’ & media advisers; deceits which our leaders themselves start to believe in. Set free that basic integrity and compassion with which most began their political careers.

Jesus, Word of God, make us an unselfish and hopeful nation.

 

Give your Word to all the weakest members of our community, and to those brave souls who assist them in making their voices heard and their needs known. Lift them up; encourage, guide, befriend and embolden these precious children of yours.

Jesus, Word of God, call their names place your own confidence within  them..

 

Speak to people who are at wits end; those who are bereaved today, the drug addicts who despairs, the newly maimed and handicapped, those youths who see no future worth having, and those elderly folk who live in the past because the present seems unbearable.

Jesus, Word of God, continue to be the rest and reviver of all who are weary and heavy laden.

 

God our holy Friend, you know own personal needs long before we frame the words of prayer; please do not give us what we think we want but bless us with whatever gain or loss is best for us.

Through Christ Jesus, your dearest and strongest Word.

Amen!

 

SENDING OUT

 

Outside these doors opportunity awaits you;

far more opportunity than most of us realise.

 

My friends, hear and open your soul to the living Word of God.

Jesus is our light and salvation.

 

Take up your right to be both called the children of God,

and receive the power to live as the children of God.

We have seen his glory, and pray for the power to serve him gloriously.

 

Abundant grace, mercy and peace,

from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

will certainly be with you now and always.

Amen!