“To begin at the Beginning…”  Sermon on John 1:1-14

For all the many times you hear John 1 read you have probably never heard anyone preach on it.  I have been advised not to and I am sure that there is a very good reason for this.  We are about to find out if my advisors were right.

Each Gospel has its own perspective on christology (who Christ was) and the opening narratives set the tone for this

In Matthew, we have the account of Jesus’s genealogy (Abraham begat Isaac etc)  from Abraham via David to Joseph and so to Jesus  who is therefore a king of David’s line and Jesus is therefore a King, even the king of kings – heralded by a star and visited by foreign potentates.  Interestingly the annunciation comes to the male Joseph.

Luke’s Jesus, by contrast, is born into a lowly position, a person of the people born in a stable and the annunciation comes to a humble young girl, Mary.

This year we are in year B of the lectionary, the year of Mark, but Mark’s Gospel does not begin at the beginning instead it begins in medias res with Christ’s baptism. In Mark we are left to wonder who Jesus is as the Messianic secret is explored and finally revealed by Peter’s  declaration in chapter 8: “You are the Christ”.

And so today, in the absence of an infancy narrative in Mark, we have the reading from the opening of John’s Gospel which takes us back not just to the beginning of Christ’s life on earth but to the very beginning of time.

As John explores the mystery of the trinity, logic dictates that, if Jesus is God, then Jesus must have been there at the very beginning – before even the creation of the world.  John’s opening words recall the opening words of Genesis: ”In the beginning”

John then describes the attributes of God – the timeless, immortal, creator – which are also to be found in Christ.

These are in three parts – the word, the light and the life – perhaps reflecting the three parts of the trinity.

First – the word: The Word, or logos, represents order – the opposite of Chaos – it is the origin of our word logic, representing God’s imparting of  reason, order, sense and meaning into the universe.

The word also represents the nature of God to reveal himself to and to communicate with mankind.  Christianity is based on words, thoughts, ideas, prayers, hymns, sermons, all are words.

You may feel there are too many words. It has been said that “the word became flesh but we spent 2,000 years turning Him back into words”.

When God creates the world in the first  account in  Genesis He does so,with speech: “Let there be light”

Which takes us on to the second attribute of God – the light of the world. An attribute which we might more easily associate with Jesus.

What does light do?  What does it mean to say that Jesus is like light?

– light helps us to see
– it reveals things
– it helps us to see the truth
– as such it provides comfort and safety
– it is a waypoint or guide (as a lighthouse)
– it is a means of communication (can be used for signalling)

Jesus came to do all of these things – when man was far from God, Jesus acted like a beacon to bring us home – he taught us to see God as involved in mankind and to call upon God as “our father”

Jesus showed us the way – he taught us to love one another as ourselves and to put love at the centre of lives.

And when things are not going as we might like – and we know that there is much darkness in the world – times when the darkness crowds in on us and seeks to obscure the light – he taught us to trust in him, to abide in him, to live in the comfort of his light

The light shines in the darkness – the darkness does not overcome the light – but nor does the light overcome the darkness – there has to be darkness or else the light is without meaning

[Let us spend a minute now thinking about where there is darkness in our lives and call on Jesus to be present with us and shine his light of love into that darkness]

Darkness may represent death – which may be seen as the ultimate darkness – certainly the light represents life

“in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

Which leads on to the Final element of this trinity – life and resurrection – the resurrection life of the Holy Spirit.

The miracle of creation and the order of the universe is more than matched by the miracle of life. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The infinite came into the present – the transcendent became imananent

The birth of a child is the ultimate expression of new life and new hope. But by being born as man Jesus’s birth entailed being mortal and his dying.

“My beginning is my end” so wrote TS Eliot in East Coker. But in some ways his end was his beginning for it did not end there on the cross – just as Jesus’s birth entailed his death so his death led on to new life and new hope.

As Jesus was crucified and died, so he rose from the dead. And in that resurrection it is as if Christ’s person had been splintered, atomised, spread out through all creation, so that at all times and in all places he might be present for us.  The present became infinite – the immanent met the transcendent

As as we celebrate our Eucharist here this morning – as we bring up to the altar our gifts of bread and wine, and as we make an offering of ourselves and our lives, as our priest repeats the words which Jesus spoke to us at the last supper, so our gifts of bread and wine will become to us his body and his blood

The elements will be reassembled and Jesus will be present with us now – the infinite will come into the present

This is the final Gift of God this Christmas – 

The word will become flesh and blood  in bread and wine and we will join with him and he with dwell again with us so that we can carry his light and life and love out with us into the world.

In the words of the hymn:
light and life to all he brings
risen with healing in his wings

And so my prayer this morning is that you will take that new life and new light back with you to your homes and families and friends, into your places of work and out into the world and shine the love of God and the light of Christ wherever you find darkness

Bringing new light, new life, new love, new hope, into the world – this day, this day of new beginnings, this Christmas Day, and every day hereafter


Sermon preached by Chris Hancock, St Mary’s Headley, Christmas Day 2014

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