In the beginning was the Word.
Our lives are full of words. We are surrounded by words. Words everywhere.
- Today you will be greeting people: Merry Christmas! Words of gladness and sharing in the festival and offering your best wishes, full of hope and happiness.
- There have been days and weeks of words of instruction: get this, do that, don’t forget the other. Getting everyone organised.
- Lots of words about transactions, practical arrangements at the check out tills. Unexpected item in the bagging area.
- And if you haven’t already, there’s a chance that at some time over the festivities you may have words with someone, a falling out. It can be a tense time, with families spending more time in each other’s company. Someone says something and someone else is aggrieved. I don’t wish you any of those kind of words!
- And if you do have a falling out, I hope you can find the words of reconciliation, the words that mend relationships.
Words are powerful. They make things happen. They make and break relationships.
But God’s Word is different from all these words.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.
God’s Word is active and creative. Right in the beginning when God created the world, God spoke, and it was done. God spoke the Word. It was the Word that made things happen. And it is the Word that goes on creating, because God’s creation continues, it never stops. And the Word sustains creation, keeping it going, holding everything together. So the Word gives us physical life.
God then gave us the Word in books of words, inspiring the people of God to write down their stories, their experiences of the living God, their poems and songs, their hopes and dreams. Over hundreds and thousands of years, the words were gathered together. People read them and heard them. They found their own stories resonating in the stories of ancient people. These were words that inspired them and filled them with awe. They didn’t just hear words, but within the many words they heard the Word. And the Word gives us spiritual life.
So, all the time, God was communicating with his people. God loves all the creation. God loves the people he made and goes on making. God wants to be in relationship with the whole world, and has reached out to us in many different ways. God saw how people were suffering and the scrapes they got into, hurting themselves and each other. Because we do, you know. Given the slightest opportunity, we mess up big time. And God treats us like adults, choosing what we are going to do and how we are going to do it. And then, when we get hurt, as we inevitably do, God cares for every wound and every agony.
So because he loved us, God gave us the Word born as a little child into a humble human family. God’s greatest work, to give up the glories of heaven for a time to become a baby. God comes alongside us, to share our lives, the good bits and the tough bits. God comes to show us how much God cares. God comes to teach us and guide us and help us. God comes to open our eyes and ears and hearts and minds, so that we can see Him and recognise Him and rejoice in Him. God gives us True life.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
When the Word became human, Mary and Joseph, his human parents, called him Jesus, and we call him God’s Son. The angels in heaven rejoiced to see him born. Most people, however, didn’t even notice.
But we rejoice again tonight. Year on year, we come together to remember and to relive that glorious moment when the Word became flesh. It wasn’t something that just happened 2,000 years ago, far away in the middle east in the iron age, but it matters for now. Because God still loves us, and goes on loving us, in spite of everything we do.
The story we relive tonight is not just words. In this service, everything we say and sing and do is pointing to the Word, God’s Word come among us, God come to be with us. Most of the words we say in this service come from the Bible, and we read three portions of the Bible, God’s Word. Our carols give glory to God, the living Word. And we break bread and bless wine, as Jesus told us to, to share his body and blood, so that the Word is here, present among us.
And the Word is with you when you go to your homes and open your presents in the morning and eat turkey and Brussels sprouts. And the Word is with you when you put the decorations away and take the tree down and get back to normal life.
I wish you a happy Christmas full of gracious words, with lots of celebration and feasting. And I wish you room for the true and living Word to grow in your heart and in your life, feeding and nurturing your relationship with God who loves you.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 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.