Sermon: Christmas, 25 December 2017, Rev. Paul Weaver, St Aidan’s

St.Aidan’s West Epping, 25th December 2017

 Rev. Paul Weaver

CHRISTMAS: GOD REVEALS HIMSELF

 (Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-12)

What do you think God is like? Most people in Australia still seem to believe that there is one God; that he is the Creator; that he is eternal, powerful, righteous. Some people have a very strong faith in this God, while others have lots of questions. Traditionally Christians for instance believe that God is real, that he is trustworthy, that he helps people in need, that he is the ultimate judge of all, and that he is in control of all things. But not all people who believe in God are sure about all these things.

The problem is that we can’t see God: we can’t feel him or touch him. We can’t literally prove his existence. And when we look at the world, we find the evidence is indeed mixed.

On the one hand, there is so much that is wonderful about the world and the universe: their beauty and grandeur. There are the patterns that mean things work in the world: sunrise, sunset, gravity, the seasons. And of course there are our own human bodies, and the potential of our minds and our capacity to decide and calculate and design and invent. There is our sense of right and wrong, and our capacity for relationships and for love. And on goes the list: so much that is wonderful.

But then there is another side: war, hunger, violence, abuse, oppression, injustice. And even if we can blame many of these on the wrong things done by people, who can we blame – apart from God – for illness and natural disasters?

The world and the universe are a mix: much that is good and wonderful, but also much that seems to be wrong. Out of my studies and reflection I can give something of an explanation for this, but I know it won’t convince everyone.

I remember the comment of Stephen Fry, who hosted the TV program QI for many years, and who is a convinced atheist: he said that if God existed he would want to walk up to him and ask him to explain cancer that hits children, and how that could be part of his plan. I understand his frustration, but that is only one of the issues that people might select to describe the mixed nature of God’s world. So much that is good, and yet there is sin and evil – something is wrong.

John, writer of the fourth Gospel, knows all this. He knows the mixed-up nature of the world made by God, but there is no doubt in his mind that this is God’s world. And he wants us to know that God is a God who speaks: he is there, and he is not silent. John writes about the Word of God – God expressing himself, God communicating with his creation.

In fact John says that creation owes its existence to the Word of God. In the beginning God spoke and there was light, the earth appeared, the sun and moon came into existence, as did the fish and birds and animals, and the first humans. The Word of God is creative, and through that Word God expresses his creative power, his wisdom and his purposes.

If God is a God who speaks, how do we hear his voice? We are likely to be suspicious of people who claim to literally hear God’s voice. But there are many ways God can communicate his message to us. We can learn much from the world itself and from the human mind, from our sense of right and wrong, and from the advice of wise godly people. The scriptures tell us of people chosen by God to be his messengers: prophets and teachers, and those who wrote down the message we read in the scriptures. And of course the scriptures themselves, the Bible, present in readable form the message of God to people everywhere.

But what we learn from the opening of John’s Gospel, which we heard a few minutes ago, is that God has spoken and revealed himself in a unique way in Jesus Christ. God’s eternal Word is creative and lifegiving and lightgiving.

And John wants us to understand that God’s Word actually came into the world as a human being. The Word of God, who exists side by side with God the Father, who shares the very nature the personal Word of God,of God, entered his own creation as a human being – in fact he entered it as a baby, born in improvised and humble and uncomfortable circumstances. No palace, no glamour, minimal comfort, certainly not the setting you would expect for the birth of a divine baby. But in the birth of Jesus God showed not only his love but also his humility. He entered this world not in power but in absolute weakness. He entered this world not in a blaze of glory, but with a struggle, and in danger for his life. The light of God came into the darkness of this world which should have expressed the wonder and goodness of God, rather than the darkness of ignorance and sin.

As John puts it, the Word became flesh, the Word became a human being. John, along with many other believers, can say “We have seen his glory”, glory of the Son of God demonstrating what God his Father is really like. And Jesus is not the Son of God merely in the sense that we humans might call ourselves children of God: yes, we are made by God, and we reflect his image, but we are not God’s children in the way that Jesus is God’s Son.

Jesus shares the very nature of his divine Father. As I am human, so my children truly share my human nature. As the Father is truly God, so Jesus the only or unique Son of God, truly shares his Father’s divine nature. To see Jesus is in fact to see God himself, to see what God is really like. If we want to see God, we must look closely at Jesus. In Jesus, we see “God with sandals on”, as a friend of mine used to put it.

Sadly, so many people failed to recognize that God had revealed himself in Jesus. They had their own agendas for God, and Jesus didn’t fit in with those agendas. They didn’t want grace and truth: they wanted power and conquest of enemies. And so they rejected Jesus, and they rejected the blessings of forgiveness and salvation and love and hope that he came to bring.

John wrote his Gospel hoping and praying that his readers would get the point, and look closely at Jesus, and find in him the blessings he offers. He wanted – and wants – his readers to believe in him, to trust in him, to put themselves in his hands.

And as we do that we will find ourselves getting to know God better, and becoming more sure that God is indeed for real, and that the promises and plans and blessings of God are for real.

John calls us to receive Jesus as the living Word of God, as the unique Son of God, as the one to brings us the Water of Life, the fullness of life, and the assurance of God’s eternal blessing. He won’t prevent us experiencing the ups and down of life in this mixed-up world, but he will travel with us through those ups and downs. In his own time he will come again, and will put everything right. But right now, as we receive him, as we believe in his name and follow him, we will indeed be children of God, members of his eternal family.

If we want to see God this Christmas, we must look closely at Jesus. If we want to know more of the reality of God, let us trust and follow Jesus. Let us allow that babe of Bethlehem to be our King and Teacher and Saviour. Amen.

Paul Weaver