A Sermon For Year B, Christmas 1
Copyright © 2008 Nathan L. Bostian
Based on John 1:1-18; Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Copyright © 2008 Nathan L. Bostian
Based on John 1:1-18; Isaiah 61:10-62:3
LET US PRAY: Come Lord Jesus: Fill us with your Spirit, and drive far from this place everything that distracts us from you. Let your Word transform our mind, reform our heart, and conform our will: That we may know you more clearly, and love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly. Amen+
SERMON: Well, I don't know what the day-after-Christmas ritual is in your house, but growing up, my family spent most of the day after Christmas in the movie theater, watching at least one, often two, and sometimes three movies in a row.
It was the perfect way to recover from the insulin-induced-lethargy that comes from overdosing on too much food and sweets.
And after the all-too-real reality of spending the last 36 hours with family members you spent all year avoiding, it was nice to slip into someone else's reality on the big screen for a while.
And the thing that always intrigued me about the movies was how each character had their own theme song. And in just a few bars of that song, you knew everything you needed to know about the character.
If the music was deep and brooding, you knew it was a villain. If it was light and funny, you knew it was the awkward sidekick. If it was eerie, you knew something bad was about to happen. And if it was powerful and victorious, you knew that the hero was coming to save the day.
So, that raises the question: If your life was a movie, what would your theme song be? When you entered the room, what music would play behind you?
Would it be a string quartet, or an old country song? Would it be a rock and roll power ballad, or full symphony? Would it be a sad song, a glad song, or a very very mad song? What music follows you through your life?
Now, I've got to be honest here: Ever since I was six years old, I knew what I wanted for my theme music. Ever since I saw that black shiny helmet leading an army of storm troopers through the death star: I knew I wanted the Imperial March!
Dum Dum Dum, Dum ta Dum, Dum ta Dum!
That music had to be my theme song, because that music says "I am important! I am powerful! Don't mess with me!"
You add that theme song to James Earl Jones' voice and you get one thing: Coolness.
Now, my dreams of dominating the universe by using my Jedi powers have long since faded, but the connection between movies, Christmas, and theme songs never has.
Because what always strikes me as so incredible about Christmas is that when God became human, he did not come using the theme music we all expect him to.
What I mean is this: Pretend you are God for a second. You are the Creator, and you are going to make your grand entrance into your own Creation, in person.
You are the Rightful King, and you are coming back to a Kingdom that is in rebellion against you. You are coming to rid the world of evil, and restore it to how you made it to be!
What theme music are you gonna use?
If I was God- let's be honest here- I am gonna choose the Imperial March. I am going to come in power and glory. I am going to show everyone who is boss. I am gonna have laser beams shooting from my eyes, and lightning from my fingers, and no one is ever going to mess up my world again!
And the entire time I am making my grand appearance, you are going to hear "Dum Dum Dum, Dum ta Dum, Dum ta Dum!"
And if we are going to be honest with ourselves, that's how many of us would do it to. If the world is broken, we fix it with force. Power overcoming power, might defeating might.
And we are not alone, because in first century Palestine many Jewish groups were looking for a Messiah to do just that: Come in power and glory, and smite the enemies of God, to establish God's Kingdom forever.
But what the Incarnation shows us is that- thank God- God is NOT like a lot of us. God is not a super-cosmic version of Darth Vader.
God's theme music on Christmas is not the "Imperial March", but "Silent Night".
God saves the world not by power-on-power conflicts that destroy evil and suffering. Rather, in Jesus the Messiah, God takes into Himself the fullness of human experience, the fullness of human suffering, the fullness of living in a world oppressed by evil. He takes all of that into Himself through his growth, life, suffering, and even death.
Then in the resurrection He raises it to new life, to glorified life, forever. And with Him, He raises US forever too.
In fact, if you will follow the movie metaphor a bit further with me, you will find out something amazing.
Because- in all honesty- the Story we find in Scripture, the Story we find written across all of History, is a lot more like a Movie, than a random string of meaningless events.
It is a movie written by a God who is the Author, the Plot, and the Director of History- or as we better know God: Father, Son, and Spirit. And this Three-in-One Author, Plot, and Director of History is knitting together a Story for the Ages.
This Triune Storyteller created a set for His Story to play out on: The Set of Creation. Then he allowed Actors to emerge from that Set who could "bear the image of God" as creative creatures who mirror their creative Creator.
And God gave us the freedom receive or reject His love, to accept or deny our role in His Movie. And then God let the Story unfold, always directing and urging it toward Godself through His Holy Spirit, but never taking away the freedom of the actors to act.
And what a Story it has been!
It is a cosmic tale of the Lover seeking to save His Beloved. It is a saga of a King trying to defeat the tyranny that has enslaved the Kingdom. It is an epic of a Hero who gives everything to rescue those He loves.
But, at the same time, what God has done for us in Jesus Christ goes beyond ALL of those stories. The Apostle John says it this way in the poem that begins His Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Now, the word "Word" that John uses goes far beyond just the words we hear, or read on a page. What John is doing here is skillfully trying to tie together both the Greek and the Jewish worlds He inhabited by using the word "Word".
In Greek, the word is "Logos", where we derive the English word "logic". It is the root for all of those "-ology" words that mean "study of", like biology ("the study of life"), or theology ("the study of God").
Logos is a word that can refer to words we speak, but it also refers to the inner logic of what we say. It refers to the meaning, purpose, plan, and inner shape of something. The Logos is the inner reality that lies behind the outer reality.
if we are talking about our choices, then Logos would be the motive of our choice. If we are talking about a Movie, the Logos would be the Plot.
And for about five centuries before John, the philosophically-minded Greeks had used Logos as a shorthand to describe the Purpose, plan, and meaning of the Universe.
Across the Aegean sea, the Jewish people also had a concept for the "Word of God". In Hebrew, their word for Word was Dabar. While the Greek Word was abstract and theoretical, the Hebrew Word was concrete and active.
For the Jews, God's Word could be literal words that came from the mouth of a prophet, giving a message from God. But, often it also referred to actions: To deeds of power that God performed to save and redeem His people.
For the Jews, God's Word was God's self-disclosure through the "body language" of deliverance, redemption, and justice. It was not God communicating abstractly about meaning and purpose, but God getting dirty in concrete acts of salvation.
And for the Apostle John, who was a Jew, writing a gospel that would be largely read by Greeks, the idea of the "Word" connected both of these worlds.
It's as if John is saying to Greeks: Hey! You know that Divine Word of meaning and purpose you have been talking about in abstract ways for the last five centuries? Well, it is concretely embodied in Jesus the Lord!
And He is sayings to the Jews: Hey! You remember all of those acts of redemption that God's Word wrought for our matriarchs and patriarchs? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet! That same Word of God is incarnate in Jesus the Messiah!
And for folks like you and I, who usually spend a lot more time watching movies than reading Greek philosophers or Jewish sages, John has the same message:
Hey! You know how you want to find a Purpose and a Plot to life? You know how you like to watch a great movie that unfolds into hope and redemption?
Well, what do you think all of that points to? The Plot of the Story of the Universe has become embodied in Jesus!
The Plot has stepped off of the page and entered into His own Story, to become the Hero, the Lover, and the King that fulfills all things!
God has not stayed in Heaven, far removed from you, like a playwright who only observes his plays from the audience! No, God has become the lead character in His own Story, and has taken upon Himself everything it means to be an actor: All the joy and pain, happiness and frustration.
He did it all to draw us into His Love. To show us what Love looks like truly embodied. To reveal to us how to really be human.
And with that said: You remember how I asked you what your theme song is?
How many of you are tired of that song? How many of you have a song that is too sad, or mad, or fearful, or frustrated?
How many of you long to have a new song?
You know, every actress or actor gets a new theme song when they enter into a new movie. With a new Plot comes a new role, and new theme music.
Maybe you are living in an old, worn out Plot that is not what God intended. Maybe you are living in a Plot that revolves around your own selfishness, or someone else's selfishness, or an old wound that won't heal.
In Jesus the Messiah, we can all find a new plot. A plot of grace and Truth. A Story of healing and hope.
And in His Epic Story, we can receive a new name, a new role, and new theme music. If you are tired, and weary, and burdened, and need a new song, I encourage you: Give yourself to His Story today. Amen+