Midnight Christmas Communion 2012

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Prologue to John’s Gospel

We can sometimes hear familiar things and not pay much attention to them can’t we. I mentioned to one of our music group yesterday that I never know whether to class ‘Away in the manger’ as a 3 or 6 verse carol. She just said ‘hmmm’ at the time but later came back to me and said, ‘do you know, all the years I’ve been playing that carol I never noticed that it was the same tune repeated twice in each verse. I remember too, not that long ago suddenly realizing why ‘Eeyore’ (in Winnie-the-Pooh’ is called ‘Eeyore’ – because he’s a donkey (hee-haw!)

That reading that we just heard read from John’s gospel has some similarities with this. It’s a reading we hear often - at least every Christmas anyway - and yet there is probably a lot of it that goes over our heads. John’s Gospel my favourite - its the one that goes into depth and this passage, the Prologue, is no exception. It is a summary of John’s Gospel.

Starts off straightaway by showing that Jesus is God. Jesus was there at creation, bringing about creation. ‘In the beginning’ and the ‘Word’ - God created by speaking. So we know that Jesus is God - the Word made flesh. God come to live with us, the Incarnation. Became flesh, became mortal, not just that He ‘dwelt’. He ‘tabernacled’ meaning as in a tent. In ‘The Message’ it says ‘and God moved into our neighbourhood’! Great and mighty creator of the world, God, becoming as us. Weak and vulnerable as a baby born without a home.

Let me tell you a story:

A little boy went into a shop displaying a “Puppies for sale” sign. The owner showed him five adorable little puppies that were ready to leave their mother. How much are they he gasped. £50 the man replied.  Reaching deep into his pocket the little boy pulled out some loose change and counted it £1.47. ‘I’m afraid I can’t sell you one for £1.47’ the man said, ‘you’ll have to save your money and come back next time we have more puppies for sale’.

The pet shop owner’s wife appeared with another puppy from the back of the shop. It was smaller than the others and had bad leg which made it difficult for it to stand up properly and it limped. The little boy asked what was wrong with it. The man told him that the vet had examined it and discovered that it didn’t have a hip socket. It would always limp and always be lame.

“Oh how I wish that I had the money to buy that puppy” said the boy excitedly, “that’s the one I’d choose!” The shop keeper said the puppy wasn’t for sale but if the boy really wanted him he would give him to him free of charge. The boy became quite upset. He didn’t want him free of charge because the puppy was worth every bit as much as the other dogs for sale. “I’ll give you the £1.47 now and pay you £1 each month until he is paid for.”

The shopkeeper was puzzled and said to him, “You don’t really want to spend your money on a dog like this. He will never be able to run and play with you like the other puppies could.” The boy bent down and pulled up his trouser leg. Revealing a twisted and crippled leg encased in a metal brace he said “I can’t run and play too well myself. Perhaps he needs someone like me who understands.”

That surely is just what God did for us. We are the ones limping along and yet he paid the full price for us: H paid with His own death on the cross. He allowed Himself to become even more weak and vulnerable on our behalf. And why did He do all of this? Well, that passage tells us, so that all those who believe in Him, those who come to Him, might become children of God. He became like us in order that we might become like Him!

If we take that seriously we have to look and see how we are to become like Him. This passage speaks of him being the light of the world: what does that have to say to us? With so many Councils making cut-backs it is not uncommon for roads not to be lit after a certain time: possibly in some places even at all. It can be quite scary when you’re not sure where the next pot-hole or raised paving slab is. Carrying a torch is a good idea. A light to guide and protect us from falling. And so it is with Jesus. His light can shine upon our pathway through life and show us the way to go – to keep us from harm, and safe and know where to go. To light up the dodgy areas of our lives.

But that isn’t always comfortable – we all have little areas of our lives that we’d rather Jesus didn’t throw a search light on. Mucky, pot-holey bits that we have to deal with if Jesus lights them up. And that’s very much what Advent, the season that we’ve just finished, is about – shining a light on our spiritual lives and trying to put them in order.

In the ancient world Jesus’ hearers would have known darkness as an unconquered enemy. It may not have the same resonance for us today. Modern technology has taken away some of the analogy. Even in not just lighting up external areas but in the case of the X-Ray, a searching light that sees inside.

Which is very like Jesus - the light of the world does indeed see inside us. But . . . He is also like a flickering candle - weak and vulnerable. I wonder if our modern technology, which empowers us, has destroyed some of the marvel at God becoming weak and helpless for us? We are now more aware of the powerful images of God who lights up the dark corners of our lives so we can address them.

But He is, as this passage reminds us, the God who became flesh - who became weak and vulnerable in order that we might find it easier to be in a relationship with Him. The God who is able to draw alongside us in our pain and sadness’s.

Candles have become very popular. Perhaps it’s the contrast of their softness and fragility in our harsh technological world. And that’s the marvel of this passage. Our all powerful creator became flesh and dwelt with us in order to make us closer to Him and be children of God. The light of the world is powerful and all-seeing, but, in the incarnation, He allows Himself to become fragile and vulnerable. When you light your Christmas candles remember to look their light in two ways. The light that lights the darkness up, that shows up all our bad bits. But also that kindly flickering light that is as fragile as us. We need both. We need Jesus. Thank God for the Incarnation.