Texts: Jeremiah 31:1-7; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18
Sadly, even as we celebrate Christmas, we know that all is not right with the world. Christ has been born, but in the thousands of years that have passed since that first night in the manger, the world has continued to endure war and famine, the oppression of the weak and the triumph of the strong. Even our Christmas celebrations sometimes seem to belie the joy they are supposed to bring us. Time spent with family can be upsetting and draining instead of loving and satisfying. Holidays remind us as much of the people who are not here to share them with us as they do the people with whom we do gather. Once the tinsel has been cleaned up, the lights have been taken down, and the wrapping paper has been recycled we may be left wondering if Christmas has changed anything.
This is the kind of song we are told to sing during this long, in-between period after the birth of Jesus and before the fullness of God’s reign. For all of Advent, we’ve been waiting, watching, hoping, praying for God to come. We have been praying, “Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come,” “Amen; come, Lord Jesus, and come quickly.” And yet, nothing seems to have changed. Syrians still flee their homeland. ISIS is still in power. No charges are filed in the death of Tamir Rice. In spite of our prayers and our pleading, it seems that nothing has changed. Death still reigns, and sin still has its power.
However, at Christmas, we are reminded that the Word has become flesh, and does now dwell among us. We are reassured that the light does shine in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. We join our voices with the exiles, singing carols, lifting our voices in praise and singing, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel!” because we know that God has acted and will act. God’s victory is assured; and so we sing.
We know that God cares for the least, the little, the last and the lost. The exiles return with weeping, and God leads them back with consolation. The blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor are not left behind. The reign of God is for all humankind, not just the able, the powerful, the self-secure; but for the lonely, the forgotten, the debilitated, the disenfranchised. Under God’s reign, Black Lives Matter, Muslims are welcomed rather than feared, there is peace on earth and goodwill among humankind.
God has promised us this reign of peace as our inheritance, and as a down payment, a seal of that promise, God has given us the Holy Spirit through baptism. As a pledge of what is to come, every week at the table God gives us a taste of the reality of God’s reign, an appetizer to whet our hunger for the feast to come. God feeds and strengthens and prepares us for this reality every time we gather in Christ’s name so that we might go out from here as the exiles go out from Babylon, weeping, broken, bleeding, blind and lame, but going out all the same, going out with hope, going out knowing that we have a home to go to, a home to which God is leading us even now.
On its face, Christmas seems to be about the birth of a child, but it is more than that. Christmas is about remembering what God has already done for us and trusting in God to continue doing what God does best. Christmas is about the Word of God made flesh, coming to dwell among us and to make God known to us so that we might become God’s children—agents of God’s reign, helping God create a home for the exiles, with a place for the blind and the lame, the poor and the addicted, the broken and the forgotten.
The Light has made God known to us the way only God’s own Son could; and because the Light has made God known to us, we are able to see God in all things, even in the suffering, the pain, the darkness of the world around us, because the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.