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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 18, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 25, 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:…

First Sunday after Christmas December 27, 2020

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147
Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your  incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus  Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” This is our powerful collect for today, the First Sunday after Christmas.

And then, our reading from John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” We can picture in our minds the creation of the world. Christ ,the eternal Word, was there with God, and as God brought forth God’s vision of the creation, Christ, the Word, called the creation into being. Christ, the Word, the Logos, the plan for creation, the model for human life.

And then, in the next phrases of this amazing and inspiring gospel, the light is coming into the world. John the Baptist is testifying to the light. And then the true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world. Jesus, the light of the world, brings light and hope to everyone in the world. We can envision a world of darkness lighting up with the light and love of Christ, We can understand that the light of Christ, the love and hope of Christ, can turn our lives from darkness and despair to light and hope. We can almost picture the whole dark world illuminated by the light of Christ, the dawn of a new day a new year, a new life for everyone.

But then,  our gospel says, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him,” That led ultimately to the Cross. And yet, even out of that, he brought new life.  But to all who were open to him and welcomed him into their lives, “he gave power to become children of God.” When we open our lives to his love, he brings us as close to God as children are to their own loving parents.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.” God loves us so much that God came among us as one of us, born as a little baby, just as we were born.

He did not come as a conquering warrior, though he could have. He did not come among us as an earthly king, though he could have done that too. He came into human life just as we do,  He was born in a little place called Bethlehem, in a cave used as a stable. He was born before Mary and Joseph were married, so some tongues wagged, and some folks considered him to be an illegitimate child. And then, King Herod, who  had heard from the wise men about the new king, killed all the baby boys to stamp out that  threat. Joseph, a very protective and courageous foster father, and Mary, as protective and courageous as her husband, had to take Jesus into Egypt. This meant that they were refugees, migrants. seeking asylum. Jesus knows what it is to be human and he also knows what it is to be persecuted, marginalized, and demeaned. 

When things became safer, the holy family moved back to Nazareth, where Joseph was a carpenter. Jesus grew up learning the carpenter’s trade and studied the scriptures and eventually began his earthly ministry by being baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River.

After that, he spent somewhere between one and three years, depending on whose account we read, going from place to place telling people how much God loves us and how much God wants us to love each other. In a patriarchal culture, he had high respect for women; in a culture that saw children and women as chattel, possessions, he instructed his disciples to let the children come to him so that he could hold them in his arms. He made it crystal clear that God’s love knows no barriers. This was a threat to people who wanted to preserve their power, and he ended up dying on that horrible instrument of torture called the cross. 

And then, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found that it was empty. He was not there. She saw a man and thought he was the gardener, but he called her name, and she knew that it was Jesus. He had risen. She ran to tell the others. And then people began seeing him. He appeared to two of them on the road to Emmaus, but they didn’t even recognize him until they invited him in for supper and he interpreted the scriptures in a way that set their hearts on fire. Peter and the disciples were out fishing and, when they came ashore there he was, cooking fish and bread over a fire. He appeared to the disciples in the locked upper room and said, “Peace be with you.” And he called us to build his peace, his shalom, over the whole earth. And that’s what we are trying to do, with his grace. 

He is alive, He is in our midst, and he is calling us to walk the Way of Love. Let us follow him, our Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.

Christmas 1 December 30, 2018

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147 or 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

Our First reading, from Isaiah, dates to one of the most joyful times in the history of God’s people. After almost fifty years of exile, the people are returning home to rebuild the temple and rebuild their homes and their lives.

This passage is full of images of growth and life. Isaiah writes, “As the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. The word “righteousness” means right relationship with God. This is a beautiful and powerful statement that, just as the earth brings forth good fruit, God is going to give the people grace to have right relationships with God and with each other. This is God’s will for us as well.

Our reading from Galatians traces our spiritual history. For a long time, humans beings were imprisoned under the law. We had the ten commandments to guide us, but we were not able to follow them, and we felt separated from God. Because we could not follow the law, we felt we were drifting farther and farther from God.

Now God has sent his beloved Son, Jesus. Jesus has let us know how much God loves us, and we can now relate to God in the most intimate way. We can call God “Abba,” which is a very familiar and endearing term. This means that we can now call God Dad or Daddy or Mom or Mama. We have been adopted as God’s own beloved children.

Our reading from John’s gospel brings all of this together. John’s gospel begins with the powerful statement, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word is Jesus, the logos, the plan, the pattern for life, the blueprint for human existence. The Word brought forth the whole creation.

And then, the powerful Word who has created the universe comes among us, is born just the same way we were born. Some of his own people do not recognize who he is, but those who do realize who he is, those who open their hearts and lives to him, receive grace upon grace. We are among those blessed and fortunate people.

Later on in John’s Gospel Jesus tells us, “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30.) This means that God loves us so much that God Godself has come among us as a baby. God loves us so much that God adopts us as God’s own children in the closest possible relationship.

John writes, “The Word became flesh and lived among us….From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” God has come to be with us. God is enfleshed; God is incarnate. What an extraordinary gift!

One other theme that runs through our readings today is light. John writes, “What has come into being in [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of all people The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” At the darkest time of year, God has come among us. God’s light and love and hope have come to be with us. This is another profound and wonderful gift.

The First Letter of John tells us, “God is love.” God has come to be with us to share God’s love, grace, and truth. In his Christmas message, Bishop Tom says that we can also be a gift to others. We are the gift because we can share God’s love with others. Amen.

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.

Pentecost 5 Proper 7 RCL June 19, 2016

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15A
Psalm 42 and 43
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

in our opening reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, We go back to the point in Elijah’s story when he has just asked God to come down and light the sacrifice on fire, and God has answered. Elijah has also killed all 450 prophets of Baal. In answer to these actions, Queen Jezebel has sent a message that she will kill Elijah.

Elijah runs as far as he can and still remain in the land of Jahweh. He goes to Beersheeba, the southernmost place in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He leaves his servant and goes into the wilderness. And he asks God to let him die. He is exhausted, He has been battling the enemies of God for a long, long time. He lies down and sleeps.

When Elijah wakes up, God has sent an angel to give him food. He eats and rests again. Then the angel wakes him up and tells him to eat more. He will be going on a long journey. He gets up, eats and drinks, and heads out on a journey of forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, also called Mount Sinai, the place where Moses met God, the place where he, Elijah, will also meet God.

Elijah goes into a cave, but God finds him there and asks him, “hat are you doing here?” And Elijah tries to present his case. He has been working hard for God, in spite of the fact that everyone else has abandoned God, and now Jezebel is going to kill him.

God tells Elijah to go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, because the Lord is about to pass by.  A great wind comes, then an earthquake, and then fire. But God is not in any of these powerful and dramatic things.

God speaks to Elijah in what the King James translation describes as
“a still, small voice.” James D. Newsome says this translation is close, but the literal translation is “a thin whisper.” After all the noise and drama of wind, earthquake, and fire comes the quiet voice of God.

The tired and dejected Elijah has an encounter with God, and that meeting with God  energizes Elijah to go back to the battle. Elijah is now carrying on the ministry begun with Moses. Elijah’s mission is to free God’s people from the tyranny of Ahab and Jezebel.

So often we expect our encounters with God to be dramatic. Most of the time, God speaks to us in a still small voice, or a thin whisper, quietly, so quietly that we may not hear God if we are not listening. Elijah was certainly listening.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is traveling to the country of the Gerasenes. Jesus is in Gentile territory.  He has gone beyond the usual bounds of his mission. He meets a man who for a long time has worn no clothes, a man who lives in the tombs. Jesus does not turn away from this man. Jesus heals him. The demons go into a herd of pigs. The herd runs down the bank into the lake and is drowned. The swineherds go into the town and tell what Jesus has done. Then everyone comes out and they see this man sitting at the feet of Jesus in the posture of a disciple. He is fully clothed and of sound mind. All the people of that area ask Jesus to leave them. They are afraid. One reason for their fear is that they have just lost a herd of pigs, an economic hardship. Jesus has set a man free from illness, but this action has an effect on the local economy. The presence of Jesus in our lives often calls us to reorganize our priorities.

The man who has been healed has become a disciple. He asks if he can come with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go and proclaim in his own area the good news of what God has done.

Our reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is one of the most powerful portions of Holy Scripture. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, we have all been clothed in Christ. We are all children of God. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus breaks down all barriers—race, religion, class, socioeconomic status, gender, all barriers. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

The story of Elijah is also our story. Sometimes it is difficult to try to do God’s will. We can get discouraged. We can feel like giving up. But God is always there to nourish us and renew our spirits. Strengthened by his encounter with God, Elijah goes on to become as great a leader as Moses.

This week, we have been dealing with a tragedy. A young man, who was a perpetrator of unreported domestic violence, who had outbursts of anger which alarmed co-workers, who was described by his ex-wife as mentally ill, murdered forty-nine people.

Imam Hassan Islam, the leader of the Islamic Society of Vermont, was the first religious leader to reach out to the Vermont Pride Center. The Senior Imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Imam Muhammad Musri, spoke on Sunday morning, asking people of all faiths to pray for the victims and families and to help in any way that they could.

I ask that we continue to pray for those who have been injured and those who have died, for their families, and for those who are ministering to the many folks whose lives have been touched by this event.

I also ask that we pray for God’s guidance in this matter, knowing that God will probably come to us as a still, small voice, a thin whisper. May we listen very carefully for that voice.

May we, as individuals and as a nation, seek and do God’s will.  Amen.

Pentecost 5 Proper 7 RCL June 19, 2016

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15A
Psalm 42 and 43
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

In our opening reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, we go back to the point in Elijah’s story when he has just asked God to come down and light the sacrifice on fire, and God has answered. Elijah has also killed all 450 prophets of Baal. In answer to these actions, Queen Jezebel has sent a message that she will kill Elijah.

Elijah runs as far as he can and still remain in the land of Jahweh. He goes to Beersheeba, the southernmost place in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He leaves his servant and goes into the wilderness. And he asks God to let him die. He is exhausted, He has been battling the enemies of God for a long, long time. He lies down and sleeps.

When Elijah wakes up, God has sent an angel to give him food. He eats and rests again. Then the angel wakes him up and tells him to eat more. He will be going on a long journey. He gets up, eats and drinks, and heads out on a journey of forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, also called Mount Sinai, the place where Moses met God, the place where he, Elijah, will also meet God.

Elijah goes into a cave, but God finds him there and asks him, “What are you doing here?” And Elijah tries to present his case. He has been working hard for God, in spite of the fact that everyone else has abandoned God, and now Jezebel is going to kill him.

God tells Elijah to go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, because the Lord is about to pass by.  A great wind comes, then an earthquake, and then fire. But God is not in any of these powerful and dramatic things.

God speaks to Elijah in what the King James translation describes as “a still, small voice.” James D. Newsome says this translation is close, but the literal translation is “a thin whisper.” After all the noise and drama of wind, earthquake, and fire comes the quiet voice of God.

The tired and dejected Elijah has an encounter with God, and that meeting with God  energizes Elijah to go back to the battle. Elijah is now carrying on the ministry begun with Moses. Elijah’s mission is to free God’s people from the tyranny of Ahab and Jezebel.

So often we expect our encounters with God to be dramatic. Most of the time, God speaks to us in a still small voice, or a thin whisper, quietly, so quietly that we may not hear God if we are not listening. Elijah was certainly listening.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is traveling to the country of the Gerasenes. Jesus is in Gentile territory.  He has gone beyond the usual bounds of his mission. He meets a man who for a long time has worn no clothes, a man who lives in the tombs. Jesus does not turn away from this man. Jesus heals him. The demons go into a herd of pigs. The herd runs down the bank into the lake and is drowned. The swineherds go into the town and tell what Jesus has done. Then everyone comes out and they see this man sitting at the feet of Jesus in the posture of a disciple. He is fully clothed and of sound mind. All the people of that area ask Jesus to leave them. They are afraid. One reason for their fear is that they have just lost a herd of pigs, an economic hardship. Jesus has set a man free from illness, but this action has an effect on the local economy. The presence of Jesus in our lives often calls us to reorganize our priorities.

The man who has been healed has become a disciple. He asks if he can come with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go and proclaim in his own area the good news of what God has done.

Our reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is one of the most powerful portions of Holy Scripture. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, we have all been clothed in Christ. We are all children of God. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus breaks down all barriers—race, religion, class, socioeconomic status, gender, all barriers. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

The story of Elijah is also our story. Sometimes it is difficult to try to do God’s will. We can get discouraged. We can feel like giving up. But God is always there to nourish us and renew our spirits. Strengthened by his encounter with God, Elijah goes on to become as great a leader as Moses.

This week, we have been dealing with a tragedy. A young man, who was a perpetrator of unreported domestic violence, who had outbursts of anger which alarmed co-workers, who was described by his ex-wife as mentally ill, murdered forty-nine people.

Imam Hassan Islam, the leader of the Islamic Society of Vermont, was the first religious leader to reach out to the Vermont Pride Center. The Senior Imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Imam Muhammad Musri, spoke on Sunday morning, asking people of all faiths to pray for the victims and families and to help in any way that they could.

I ask that we continue to pray for those who have been injured and those who have died, for their families, and for those who are ministering to the many folks whose lives have been touched by this event.

I also ask that we pray for God’s guidance in this matter, knowing that God will probably come to us as a still, small voice, a thin whisper. May we listen very carefully for that voice.

May we, as individuals and as a nation, seek and do God’s will.  Amen.

Christmas 1 Year B RCL December 28, 2014

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

The scene of our first reading is around the year 539 B. C. God’s people have been in exile in Babylon (Iraq) for almost sixty years, in those days, three generations. King Cyrus of Persia (Iran) has conquered the Babylonian Empire and is allowing the exiles to return home.

Just imagine the scene in Babylon. The news spreads, “We’re going home! Were going home!” This is wonderful news. The people pack up and make the long journey. But when they get there, the temple is in ruins. Many buildings are in ruins. The land has been ravaged.

They want to rebuild. But they become deeply discouraged. Herbert O’Driscoll suggests that, if we want to try to imaging their plight, we should look at pictures of the destruction of war—the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, for example. Whole cities in ruins. This is how it was. The people were overwhelmed. They were paralyzed, They had no idea how and where to begin.

Into this situation, God calls the prophet Isaiah to give the people hope, to share with them God’s vision of restoration and renewal. Jerusalem is going to rise up out of the rubble and become a city of light and life. Isaiah is the one who inspires the people to get to work and tackle this huge job. Thank God for our cheerleaders who can inspire us to carry out God’s vision.

Our epistle today says so much. If all we had was the law, the Ten Commandments, we would feel like prisoners. There are things we are supposed to do, and when we do not do them, we feel awful. There are things we are not supposed to do, and when we fail and do those things. when we break God’s commandments, we are imprisoned in or own sense of our weakness and sinfulness.

Into this situation of hopelessness, God sends God’s son and God adopts us as God’s own children. This is mind boggling. Remember when we read the Book of Exodus and Moses is going up the mountain to meet God? Only Moses can get that close to God. The belief then was that you could not see God and live. Now that Jesus has come among us, we are able to call God “Abba.” This is a very intimate term, like Dad or Mom. Because of Jesus we are that close to God our divine parent. We are not caught in the prison of sin and hopelessness. We are surrounded by love and grace. We can get free of sin. We can grow and change. There is help. We are children of God. We are children of light.

Our gospel today is the prologue to the gospel of John. We have the story of Jesus’ birth under such humble circumstances, shepherds and kings coming to worship him, the whole creation rejoicing, the whole world filled with music and light and love.

St. John was trying to explain the meaning of the birth of Jesus. He was putting the story we know so well into philosophical terms that would be understood by both Jews and Greeks.

Jesus is the Word, the logos, the plan, the pattern for life. Jesus is the one who has called the whole creation into being. Remember Robert Farrar Capon’s wonderful description of creation in The Third Peacock? God thinks up the creation and Jesus, the Word, together with the Spirit, makes it all happen. The Word, the One who called the world into being, has now come among us. God has come among us.

God walking the face of the earth was not accepted by everyone. But there were some people who did see who Jesus really was—Mary and Martha and Lazarus. who gave him hospitality and support, his earthly father, Joseph, who protected Jesus and Mary so carefully, his Mother, Mary, the apostles, Mary Magdalene. There were people he healed like the man born blind, people he met, who could see deeply into spiritual reality, people like the woman at the well, who ran into the village to tell folks about him. The little people. The powerful people were too busy protecting their turf to be able to recognize him. But the little people could see immediately who he was. The light was coming into the world, full of grace and truth. Those with humility, openness of spirit, could see that. We know that.

We are children of God. Jesus is our brother. God is as close as our breath. In Jesus, God became incarnate, embodied, enfleshed.

I know we all love to sing. Here is a hymn which express the meaning of our gospel today.

O Most mighty! O most holy!—Song Sheet

Amen.

Christmas 1 2013

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147 or 147:13-31
Galatians 3: 23-25, 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word….” That is how our collect for this First Sunday After Christmas begins.

St. Paul tells us that, because Jesus has come among us, we are now on intimate terms with our God, We can call God Abba, meaning “Daddy” or “Mom.” God is no longer far away from us. God is no longer light years away. God is with us. Emmanuel, God with us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  God has come among us. God has gone through the process of gestation, the adventure of being born into this world which God has made. God has undergone every human experience.

God was not born into a palace or a castle. God was not born into a place of power. As Pope Francis has said, God came into the world as a homeless person. There was no room for them at the inn. God was not born in Jerusalem, the seat of religious and secular power in the Holy Land. God was not born in Rome, the seat of the major empire of the time. God was born in a stable, to a young woman named Mary and a carpenter named Joseph, not to an earthly king and queen or emperor and empress.

John says, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” At the darkest time of the year, the time when we are yearning for the days to become longer, the light comes into the world.  That light, that love, will never be overcome by darkness.

John says that the Word made the world. He was and is the eternal Word who called the creation into being, yet when he came to his own people, they did not know him and they did not accept him. But some did, and those people he made children of God. Actually, he has made all of us children of God. He has brought all of us into close relationship with God. We can be grateful because we realize that he has done this. And we can share his love with others.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us….” Incarnation means “enfleshment.” God becomes human, “Full of grace and truth.” God becomes one of us so that we can look at the life of God in Jesus and see how to live our lives as our Lord would want us to. And there, we see “grace upon grace.”

We can imagine Jesus in Joseph’s shop, playing with the curls of wood from the carpenter’s plane, later learning Joseph’s trade. The hymn “Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,” has one verse that says, “Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe, be there at our labors and give us, we pray, your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.”

God came to be with us in all our humanness. God knows what it is like to face every challenge, every joy. God walks with us through every moment.

Love has come to be with us, to fill us with grace upon grace.

Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift.

Amen.