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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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The First Sunday after Christmas   December 31, 2017

Isaiah 61:10–62:3
Psalm 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-35; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

Our readings today are filled with joy. In our opening reading from the prophet known as the Third Isaiah, we are with the people of God as they are returning home from their exile in Babylon. The mood is that of a wedding feast, and the images are of growth and faithfulness. Isaiah says, “For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”

Righteousness means right relationship with God. The people are going to have a new and deeper and truer relationship with God and with each other. The radiance of this renewed relationship will cause God’s people to shine as a light to the world.

In our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, an impressive amount of theology is condensed into just a few words. Paul, a Pharisee, tells us that before faith came, God’s people were imprisoned in the law. The law was the disciplinarian—we could say the law was the warden of the prison. We were all stuck in this prison because, as Paul says elsewhere, the things we didn’t want to do, we did; and the things we wanted to do we did not do—and we felt miserable and asked God to free us from this bondage.

Then, faith came, or, more accurately, Christ came. Jesus was born just as Paul was born, just as all of us are born. He came among us as a baby. He was one of us. And because of him, we are all now God’s children in a new and deeper and more loving way than ever before. And the Spirit of Christ is in our hearts. God has come among us and has lived a human life. The wonder of this is absolutely amazing. Only a loving and caring God would do such a thing. And what a gift! We are not alone. Our Shepherd and Brother, Jesus, has come into the world just as we did and is now living among us. He is with us to lead us and guide us.

The law is no longer a prison. It is a helpful guide. And now we have the gift of grace to follow the law.

John the Evangelist tells the story in yet another way. “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word- the logos in Greek—the Plan, the Pattern for life. The Word, Wisdom, Christ, was with God at the very beginning. The Word was the one who called the creation into being. God imagined the creation, Christ and Wisdom called it into being.

We can imagine total darkness and the vastness of the universe but nothing else—a void. And then we can imagine stars and galaxies coming into being, and then this one solar system, this one star surrounded by these planets orbiting, and then this one beautiful gem of a planet, all blue and green and tan.

Then comes John the Baptist telling us that the ultimate light was coming into the world. And then Jesus, our light, came into the world. The people in his own hometown did not accept him, but to those who did see him as he really was, he gave new life and a deep, loving relationship with God.

As Isaiah has said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus is our Light. Here in Vermont during this very cold week, the light is increasing. The days are growing longer, and our Light is among us. As John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

John says so much in so few words: “From his fullness,” John writes, “we have all received, grace upon grace.” It is like a waterfall of grace. Each of us has received so much from our Lord. Grace upon grace, overflowing love, forgiveness, and healing.

There is a beautiful hymn, number 84, that sums up the meaning of our readings.

Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine;
love was born at Christmas; star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the godhead, love incarnate, love divine;
worship we our Jesus, but wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token; love be yours and love be mine, love to God and neighbor, love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Rossetti

God has come among us as one of us. God has given us the gift of God’s very self, God’s loving presence. May we be ever thankful for this wondrous and amazing gift. Amen.

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