Merry Christmas to you, on this the Second Sunday of Christmas.
The birth narratives of manger and child, shepherds and sheep, angels and holy family, star and stable, have echoed throughout song and scripture for these 12 days; imprinted into our imaginations once again.
Today, on this last day of Christmas John’s poetic birth narrative invites us further to imagine and take heart in a God born of and for relationship. A God, whose gracious and loving presence rolls into our lives like waves on the shore, from the beginning of time until the end, for eternity.
Such is God’s relationship with humankind. Jesus born in the midst of all that lives, moves and and has its being.
Now the Gospel text is one in which the poetry flows melodically from our mouths. John’s Gospel opens:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. 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.
While these words are some of my very favourite in scripture, I also really enjoy the Message translation for the next portion of the passage we hear today.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, is translated as:
The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood.
The Word became flesh and moved into our neighbourhood.
For me, this makes the passage very real and tangible.
The WORD - Jesus - moves into our neighbourhood.
Now, you and me, we’re likely part of a few neighbourhoods.
Where we live
Where you work
Where you you play
Surrounding the church
Where you grew up
Where you will move, or have moved from
Where you visit, or vacation
Imagine, Jesus, the Word, moving into all of these neighbourhoods.
This is the narrative of Jesus’ birth according to John.
Jesus born among us, and for us.
Not only our local neighbourhoods, Jesus moves into the very neighbourhoods that experience displacement of people and wildlife from ecological crisis, strife from political unrest, abandonment/apathy due to poverty, neighbourhoods of diversity in culture and faith too.
Into these neighbourhoods moves the WORD - Jesus.
When the for sale sign goes up in our backyard or leadership changes in a nearby country, we all hope a good neighbour will move in next door. A good neighbour might be one who shows compassion, is considerate, a friend to many, wise and truthful, respectful. Someone whose actions contribute peace into the community and world.
Growing up good neighbours were a plenty, you’d borrow an egg, you’d receive a warm greeting, you knew there was another safe place nearby. I think this still to be true. Good neighbours are all over. However, there might be more isolation and loneliness in communities these days.
And so when we hear that the Word became flesh and moved into our neighbourhoods,
we can be confident that the Word moves into the places where we might expect to see Jesus…but also in the places where we might not expect to see Jesus such as that difficult person next door or those young people whose green bin stinks to high heaven. Even in those challenging neighbours there is a space where the incarnate love and grace of Jesus can be born.
The Word is a good neighbour…
But why is the Word a good neighbour?
The gospel points us to the grace of God.
We hear in John’s Gospel,
We have received grace upon grace…
I like the image of waves rolling onto the seashore. The waves roll in with faithful regularity. The supply never fails. So it is with the grace of God
Faithful, inexhaustible, supply never ending.
This is why the Word moves into our neighbourhoods. Giving grace upon grace in the most needed of places and people.
This is the Word made flesh who moves into our neighbourhood.
A word of hope.
In a time of need.
It’s likely we’ve all experience a move at some point in our lives. For my family it has been 2 years since we moved to KW from Richmond Hill. People ask how are you enjoying KW? I am glad to be here for many reasons and aware that any move is a process of continuous discovery about your new surroundings. It’s about belonging, contributing to the common good, living meaningfully, making connections.
One surprise when coming back to KW was a connection from generations past. Recently, I discovered that the old historic mennonite farmhouse in the neighbourhood where we moved, belonged to a great (x5) grandfather of generations past. What a coincidence that we are likely living on the land previous generations once inhabited and farmed to produce fruit form the earth. And while I experience this discovery a moments of grace, I know this is just a glimpse of the scope of God’s work here among us. A supply of grace never ending.
We all have deep roots. Roots connecting us to each other, roots connecting us to God. Belonging is about connection. Connection is about relationship. And this passage is about all of these: belonging, connection and relationship. Relationship with god, each other in our community and in the world, and with all of creation. All of this takes time to cultivate. Roots don’t form or reestablish themselves overnight, even if they are deep roots with our creator.
With children one current parenting tagline is to make connection before correction. Form the connection and then a correction flows more naturally and perhaps lovingly. This seems to be a good idea for adults too. Connection is about curiosity while correction is about judgement. Correction and judgement are not bad (and needed) but too often is the case where we lead with this and forget the other.
Instead, let us lead with connection born through curiosity of our fellow neighbours.
The steps we take lay down some of the roots of future generations. What good news shall they bring?
I hope they speak of connection to a loving, gracious and generous God. That’s how God interacts with us. I think they will show that we are people on a journey. Imperfect yet open to the god who can do infinitely more than we can imagine.
Inspiration from Sources:
Feasting on the Word. Commentary by Culpepper.