Christmas at John’s House

by | Dec 5, 2021

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Meg Peery McLaughlin
Christmas at John’s House
December 5, 2021
John 1: 1-14
Advent 2

Guide us O God
by your Word and Spirit
that in your light we may see light
in your truth find freedom
and in your will discover your peace
through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 14 And 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.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

How’s it going at your house?
The Christmas List, how’s it going:
Something you want, something you need,
something you’ll wear, something you’ll read,
is that how you organize it?

Our girls are asking for a dog.
Not a puppy, but an older rescue.
They’ve been asking for a long while.
And it’s not going well. I’m on board. Jarrett… is not.

For the record I have permission to share this.
It’s a preacher kid code.

And Naomi is a smart preacher’s kid.
In addition to knowing where all the candy is hidden in this joint,
she knows what strong respect her dad has for you good people.
She also has heard me say more times than once:
Yes, I’ll play that game with you just as soon as I finish this bulletin.
Sure, we can watch a movie when I get this liturgy written.

So, she’s had this idea lately
that we should sneak into the bulletin words like this:
Time for worship. Time for a pet!
Pastor Jarrett, please get your girls a dog.
She even suggested a congregational song:
O come, O come Immanuel
With a dog that we will love so well

But Jarrett is hum, shall we say, stubborn convicted?
In response to this Christmas pressure in our home,
he keeps saying that animals take a lot of time
and creatures take a lot of resources
and welcoming a furry friend into our home will drastically change the routine.

So, that’s how it’s going in our house.

This Advent,
we are taking a tour of the “houses” of each of the four Gospel writers.
Last week, we were at Mark’s house, where there are no Christmas decorations at all and where we have to come in the backdoor.
Mark’s telling of the beginning doesn’t make sense without the ending, the cross.
For Mark, only a suffering God can help us.

This week we’re with John,
not to be confused with the John that we always spend time with in Advent, John the Baptist. That’s a hazard that goes with sharing a popular name.
But this is no roughneck prophet, who eats bugs
and preaches with more fervor than we’re used to.
No, this is John the loquacious thinker. John the poet.

Of course, by now, we know that each of the gospels has a different “beginning.” Unlike his neighbors, at John’s house, we won’t hear of angels or wise men.
There’s no talk of a baby’s family tree or a difficult-to-explain conception.
So, when John says, “In the beginning,” we wonder: Where will he start?

As one preacher puts it , John wants to rewind our clocks all the way back –
back before the dinosaurs tromped around, back before the planets orbited the sun – back before there was anything that might make sense to our limited minds.
“Back there, in the very beginning, was the Word.
The Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Beyond the stars – before the stars – God was.

Of course those first three words of John’ Gospel remind us also of the first three words of all of scripture. Genesis 1: In the Beginning. John 1: In the Beginning.

And that’s when you may start noticing what’s around John’s house.
In addition to the books of poetry and philosophy that fill the bookshelves in the living room, there are paperwhites blooming, and a Christmas cactus,
there’s a telescope in the corner,
and globe on the coffee table,
there are candles— many—of course there has to be light.
And if you crane your neck so you see the kitchen, there’s a compost bin and a dog bowl. Yes, no offense Jarrett, there is most assuredly a creature in John’s house.

Because John’s Gospel is concerned with all of creation.
John is the Gospel that is most heady in terms of big ideas
and complex theological conversation
– which might lead us to think of Christ’s work of salvation as other-worldly.
Like the point of Christ’s love is to get us out of this place to be with God.
But no. . .

If understand the text, that’s not how it is. To think of salvation as escape from this world of people and things is to turn one’s back on that which God, through Christ, has created. To have a view of salvation that does not embrace all that God has created is too small and partial .

No, John’s Jesus is a
lover of, creator of, redeemer of
this whole eco-system of life.

Which is why John is careful about his words in this poem.
John doesn’t say the Word is a little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes;
John doesn’t even say the Word becomes human,
he says the Word becomes flesh.

Flesh is a far broader reality than “humanity”—
The Word became an earth creature,
a biological dependent on the Earth’s eco-system .

For John, Christmas is about all of creation.
Jesus brings it to life, enters its life,
and works and works with you and with me
to push back the darkness to shine light that is life for all.

So perhaps for John,
the scene on the UPC front lawn a couple of months ago
would be the picture on John’s Christmas card.
Maybe you saw it too.
We were all at the polka party. Yes, you heard that right.
Yes, if you missed it, UPC had a Polka Party on the front lawn to celebrate our stewardship dedication Sunday, it was epic.
We were there dancing, visiting under Carolina blue skies,
eating lunch catered from Neal’s deli in Carrboro.
And over near the magnolia tree by the trash cans,
was Ashley Wilson. Everything we used that day was compostable.
But Neal’s had used toothpicks with those plastic frilly ends to keep the sandwiches together, so Ashley was there, digging through the compost, pulling each one out, snapping off the plastic part and composting the rest.
Ashley was doing what she always endeavors to do
– care for this creation not as it belonged to her, as if she belongs to it.

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all creation.

And the Word became flesh. And lived among us.

This week I sat in a coffee shop,
working on this text, writing, typing, deleting.

And in walked my friend Chris Tuttle.
He and his wife Carrie are pastors in Durham,
many of you have prayed for their son Heath
who had a heart transplant as an infant 13 years ago.
Now Heath has post-transplant lymphoma
and over coffee Chris told me how it is at his house this Advent:
the intimate vulnerable details
of what it means for Chris and Carrie to change Heath’s ostomy everyday
until he can have his surgery to reverse it.

The Word became Flesh.

It made me think of how this week Lee Ann Buck held her dad’s wrinkled hand as he was dying, and how today, if you ask Scott Smith, he’ll show you pictures of his new granddaughter’s rolls in her thighs, and I thought of those 4 Michigan HS students: Madisyn, Tate, Hana, and Justin.

Flesh.
How all of it is precious.
Flesh.
How all of it is connected and dependent.
Flesh.
How all of it,
every square inch of creation,
is made,
and remade,
loved
and beloved,
respected
and restored,
sacred
and saved,
in the One who comes down at Christmas.

So you’re right, Jarrett,
caring for creation
well, it takes time,
and it takes a fair amount of resources,
and it will change our routine.

And God knows,
it is worth it.

Alleluia. Amen.

(And Naomi…you can thank me after the service.)