Word of the Father 12.16.18

Word of the Father
 
This week I continue our Advent celebration of Christmas Carols. Two weeks ago we sang “Good Christian Friends Rejoice” and proclaimed the good news of the second verse. Good Christian friends, rejoice, With heart and soul, and voice; Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this! He hath opened the heavenly door, And man is blessed evermore. Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this! We learned that this was what Paul proclaimed in his letter to the Colossians: For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Jesus Christ was born for this. And so good Christian friends rejoice! Last week we sang a different carol. “Joy to the World”. In this carol we proclaim: Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; … Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! … He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, … We are proclaiming Jesus to be our king who reigns and rules. Jesus was born for this, too. And so, we can proclaim joy to the world. This week we sing a new Carol. O Come All Ye Faithful. John 1: 1-18 (excerpts) 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. … [T]o all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 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. …  16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. …  [G]race and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.  In today’s carol, O Come all Ye Faithful, we proclaim Jesus to be: Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. Good theology. So, what does it mean? When I read this scripture, something peculiar popped into my head. When my son was in high school, had a part in the high school musical. When he auditioned, I asked him what the musical was. He said, L’il Abner! L’il Abner! I hadn’t seen L’il Abner since I was a little kid. It was hilarious. One of the best characters is Mammy Yokum, Abner’s mother. She is a bare-knuckle boxer who was “champeen” of the little town of Dogpatch. Not only was Mammy physically imposing, her personality was a force of nature. In the town of Dogpatch, she had the last word on just about everything. If there was ever an argument in her home, or in Dogpatch, Mammy had the last word. When she said, “Ah has spoken!,” that was the end of any discussion. “Ah has spoken!” Words of authority. Words that make things happen. Words that made things happen. These are not words of persuasion. These are not words of negotiation. These are not words of debate. These are words, that when said, cause things to happen, or not happen as the case might be. There are few times that any of us have that kind of power or authority. Where we can speak and things happen. And even in those rare moments when we do, it doesn’t last forever. In L’il Abner, Pappy Yokum ultimately usurped Mammy’s authority taking charge of Abner’s rescue from the villainous General Bullmoose and even used Mammy’s famous line on her – “I has spoken!” That is the kind of thing we have seen throughout history, right? Leaders come and go. Someone else takes over. Most not even remembered in history books. We remember the words of only a few. And even fewer have had any real long-lasting impact with their words. But there is one whose word has eternal power and authority. John describes him in our scripture reading today. Jesus. Jesus is the “word of God” personified. How do we interpret that? To understand what John is describing, we need to understand the Hebrew and Greek meanings of the word … well … “word”. In Hebrew, the word is Milah. It is not just a sound, it is a thing. A thing that once uttered, has an impact. For good or bad. Something that cannot be undone. But for John, the word he describes is much more. The word, the thing, is the will of God. It is the will of God that creates in the beginning an enlightened universe out of the dark chaos and enlivens that universe thereafter. It is the word that connects God with creation. Always. It has always been here, is here now and will always be here. We hear about it first at the very beginning of the Old Testament. The birth of the universe. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God said, “Let there be a sky,” and there was a sky. God said, “Let there be earth and sea,” and there was earth and sea. God said, “Let there be vegetation,” and there was vegetation. God said, “Let there be a sun and moon and stars,” and there was a sun and moon and stars. God said, “Let there be fish and birds,” and there were fish and birds. God said, “Let there be land animals,” and there were land animals. God said, “Let there be human beings,” and there were human beings. You get the theme here. God spoke it and it happened. God keeps speaking and it keeps happening. Because “God has spoken!” Isaiah describes it a bit differently.
 
Isaiah 55: 11 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  God’s words go out and return fulfilled. God’s purpose is accomplished. God’s will succeeds. God’s will has power. And then we hear this, too, in Isaiah.
 
Isaiah 40: 8 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.
 
God’s word is eternal. So God’s word is eternally creating. That is the Hebrew perspective. But John writes in Greek. And to a Greek audience. John uses the Greek word Logos. The best explanation I have read on what Logos means was by William Barkley. He said the Stoic Greek philosophers focused on these questions: What keeps the stars in their courses? What makes the tides ebb and flow? What makes the days and nights come in unalterable order? What brings the seasons around at their appointed times? Their answer was the Logos. All things are controlled by the Logos of God. The Logos is the power which puts sense into the world, the power that makes the world an order instead of a chaos, the power which set the world going and keeps it going in its perfect order. The Logos pervades all things. So, if we combine those things, we see that both the Hebrew and the Greek use the concept of the word as the will of God that creates and sustains all things. That is John’s message. The word is the connection between God and us. The Milah. The Logos. John says that Jesus is the embodiment of that. We see what that looks like in Mark’s gospel. Mark says Jesus came to teach people that the Kingdom of God had come near and that they needed to repent and believe in that good news. What Jesus was saying is that Jesus himself was the Kingdom of God come near. And he demonstrated it with his power to heal, calm storms, raise the dead, feed multitudes and cast out demons. Jesus was demonstrating then he has the authority of God in his words. When Jesus spoke, his words caused things to happen. Because he said so. Jesus had spoken. Jesus did not come to work miracles. He came to enlighten and to enliven. He wanted people to listen to him and learn from him what life in the kingdom looked like. So that they would know God. That is the word. Which brings us to our scripture reading. If you were going to tell someone about Jesus, where would you start? Each of the Gospel writers approaches the issue a bit differently. In Luke we learn of Jesus’ divinity when Gabriel visits Mary. In Matthew we learn of Jesus’ divinity when the angel visits Joseph. Mark, the oldest Gospel, implies that it comes at his baptism. John’s approach is the most powerful: In John, Jesus preexists not only his birth and his baptism, but … well … everything! 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being … If you want a birth story, here you go. The birth of the universe. And it happened because Jesus made it happen. But then this: 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Creation is enlivened through Jesus as well. It is lit up! It continues because Jesus gave it life and light. And so through Jesus, God is connected to us. According to John, God, through the word, always has been, is now, always will be. But why, then, the incarnation? John puts it this way: … [T]o all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. He came to pull us into his relationship with God. To allow us to be adopted children of God. Who would then become eternal children of God. And then there is this, which should not be missed: 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. …  16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. …  [G]race and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.  We see God in Jesus. Jesus allows us to see the character of God. Glorious. Life giving. Light giving. Powerful. Grace giving. Truth speaking. Creator. Redeemer. Sustainer. As N. T. Wright put it: That’s the theme of this Gospel: if you want to know who the true God is, look long and hard at Jesus. The Word made flesh. That is good news indeed! Worth celebrating, right? Worth coming to adore. Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing; Oh, come, let us adore Him, oh, come, let us adore Him, Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

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