Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Word Became Flesh

A sermon preached during the Christmas Day Service (Dec 25, 2016) at Tuguegarao Central UMC.

Naimbag nga bigat kadacayo amin kakabsat. Merry Christmas canyayo.
Amo yo, idi intawag ni Pastor nga syac ti agsermon ti Christmas Sunday, excited nac. I am always excited to share the good news gapo ket as a medical doctor canayon met nga bad news ti mai-share ko kadagiti pasyentic.
But today is Christmas Day. Today is the day when we celebrate The Word is made flesh and dwells among us.

The Gospel of John is a unique book among the four Gospel books. It is only the Gospel of John which tells the birth story of Jesus differently. It emphasizes a high Christology, meaning the emphasis is on the divinity of Christ. Why the need for emphasis?
The Gospel of John was probably written to early Christians meaning they already know and believe that Jesus is the messiah. However, they still face persecution thus their faith is in jeopardy.
The Gospel of John hopes to deepen the faith of the already existing believers of Jesus by emphasizing that Jesus is indeed a divine being. It strengthens their faith by teaching them that in recognizing that Jesus is the messiah, they will see the glory of God that is full of grace (love) and truth from God. Belief in a divine God therefore needs a better illustration than just a birth of an infant Jesus to an incarnate God who became flesh. Faith in God is deepened by recognizing that God is not a distant God but a God whom we can experience and see in the person of Jesus. 
You will not find the manger story or the visit of the three kings or the visit of the angel to Joseph and Mary. No, the birth story of Jesus in the Gospel of John is different.
Why do you think it is different? Because the writer of the Gospel of John wants to emphasize to us that Jesus is not just a cute little innocent baby. There is more to that.
You see, Christmas is not just the birth of the baby Jesus. Any baby can be born on Christmas day. 

In the hospital, when I was on duty on Christmas day we deliver babies on December 25. Yung ibang Nanay, ipipilit pa na makapanganak ng December 25. Maglalabor ng December 24 para makapanganak ng 25. Tapos ang ipapangalan sa anak nila ay Hesus. Pero yung tatay, hindi si Joseph. Sabi nga yung anak cute like Jesus pero yung mukha ng tatay mukhang si Hudas. Christmas is not just the birth of the infant Jesus. The writer of John makes a strong emphasis by describing God as the Word who became flesh and dwells among us.

Why was John using the Word (logos) becoming flesh to describe God incarnate as man?
The birth story of Jesus, that is God becoming human, is described in the Gospel of John as the Word becoming flesh. Let us focus on that “Word.” For John, God is the “Word.” In the original Hebrew Bible, the Greek word for “Word” is Logos.
Logos is the Greek word that means divine wisdom, potent energy, creative power.
Let me share with you how other authors and theologians answered this question about  Logos. First, the writer of John wants to emphasize to us by referring to Jesus as the Logos. This Logos is the God that created the world through a spoken Word, God said “let there be light and there was light.” That Word that can create is God. That Word is Jesus. Jesus is the Word that can create the world and the source of all created things. That Word is also the source of love, charity, grace and truth.
Another thing, the birth of Jesus for John is not just a simple single event with a particular date in the history of events. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. It is important to recognize that the beginning is not an event but rather beyond the human history. It is cosmic and thus is an eternal unit. The Gospel of John emphasizes that Jesus is not finite.
But then, the Word, that is Jesus, enters into the finite world in verse 10. Although, the world rejected the very God that created the world. Except for some people who were born again and received Jesus.
The story of Jesus is the story of the Word becoming flesh. It is the story of an infinite God coming into the finite world as a human being. It is the incarnation of God as man. The writer of John is sharing to us their experience of that incarnation. Jesus is the human manifestation of God’s creating and saving love. God, through Jesus Christ, has shined the light through all the dark corners of the earth.
One book emphasized that when the Word became flesh it dwelt among us, the dwelling was not temporary. A closer study on why the writer of John used the word dwell means the intent of God to becoming flesh was not only to experience humanity but to be among humans in this world not for a temporary moment. The original Greek word used for dwelling could also mean “to tabernacle” or “to tent”. To tent mean to stay close without boundaries. The tabernacle reminds us of the Old Testament where the presence of God with the people is symbolized by the tabernacle. The verse could therefore translate as “God tabernacled” with us. Here it is important to understand that the incarnation of the Word in the human form of Jesus does not only stop in Jesus but God is present with all of humanity who have received Jesus as their lord and savior.
God is with us through Jesus. And we could see God’s gracefulness and truthfulness in Jesus.  God is graceful that he forgives us even if we are unworthy of it. God is truthful that he keeps his promise of salvation to us.
The Gospel of John is telling his readers before and to us today that God became flesh in Jesus and the truthfulness and gracefulness of God can be seen in Jesus who became human like us. But why do we need to be reminded of that?

This problem is not unique during the time of John. Even to this day we hear some people talking about Jesus as a mere human being. That is the reality. Some groups and cults have propagated this understanding that Jesus is not divine and therefore not the messiah. Why is this dangerous and important for us Christians?
Because if Jesus is not God and man, then the person who suffered on the cross to save us from our sin and defeated death was not God but a mere human being. It will mean that humanity was saved by Superman – a superhero. Not God himself. You owe your salvation to a human being. We are entrusting our lives and our future to a mere human being.
As Methodist, we are one with many mainline Christians who expresses the same basic belief with early historical Christianity that Jesus Christ is human. That is apparent in our Nicene and Apostles Creed. That is apparent in our hymns and prayer to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
We celebrate Christmas because we celebrate not just the birthday of an infant but the incarnation of God becoming flesh. For the same reason, those who do not believe Jesus as the incarnate God do not have a reason to celebrate Christmas. Again for the same reason, if you do not understand Christmas as the celebration of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us then better not celebrate Christmas. The decorations, Santa Clause, Christmas trees, parties, exchange gifts and good food are nothing if we only see Christmas a birthday of Jesus without recognizing that in that birth God became human. Our faith may need a little upgrade from God.

My friends, let us examine our faith quickly. When we pray, do we call to our heavenly father or do we look for Jesus? When we see the manger, do we see a poor little baby or do we see God reaching out to us humankind? When we see the cross, do we see a suffering and bleeding Jesus or do we see God reconciling the sinners to his glory?  When we celebrate Christmas, do we see the birth of a baby or do we incarnation of God becoming flesh? Is this because we do not often see Jesus as God.
God is not far from us. And so we ask, can we deepen our faith if we see Jesus as God that is all-encompassing, all-knowing and all-powerful God? Maybe we will experience God as graceful, loving and truthful to his promise when we experience it through the humanity of Jesus.
God is not far nor absent if we Jesus as God.  Maybe, we will rely more on Jesus to heal us completely if we see him as God incarnate. Maybe we will trust more in Jesus to lead us to our lifetime partner if we see Jesus as God incarnate. Maybe we will not feel lonely and hopeless if we see our best friend Jesus as God incarnate. Maybe we will surrender the outcome of our exams to Jesus if we see him as God incarnate. Maybe we will not doubt the promise of Jesus that we will succeed in our businesses and careers if we see him as God incarnate. Maybe we will not impose our own agenda and personal plans and desires against the perfect plan of Jesus for us if we see him as God incarnate.  
You see, our faith deepens and strengthens when we recognize that baby born Jesus is God who became flesh. That is the message of the writer of John when he said later on 3:16, “For God so loved the world that whoever believes in Jesus (as the God who became flesh) will not die (from sins) but will have eternal life.”
That is the good news my dear brothers and sisters, that on Christmas day God became flesh and dwells among us. God is made flesh in you. God is living in you. In your daily lives and daily activities, the dark world will experience the presence of God and they will know God is for real.

God is for real. God is not just an idea. God is not some distant being. God is present in this world.
The hospital is a the darkest place on earth. But God is present there. There is sickness, there is hopelessness, there is trouble and anxiety. But that is where hope is needed. That is where God is made flesh in the lives of your health workers.
The church can be God made flesh in the lives of other people who live in the dark.
God became flesh on Christmas day so that God may live with us and become closer than ever to us. That in sinfulness and arrogance people may feel the grace of God, that in our unfaithfulness we can see the truthfulness of God, that in our suffering and pain we can feel the comforting embrace of God, that when we are fearful and anxious God is there to accompany us, that in our times of sadness and loneliness God is our companion, that in times of our victory and happiness God can share in our happy moments.
God came to this world, not in general terms. God wants to be with each one of us individually. God is coming to you. The Word that is God needs to be incarnate in this church, in our church group, in our families, in our relationships, in you and dwell in you, bringing with him truth and grace. God wants to be incarnate and become flesh in all of society and in us. Let us allow God to be born in our hearts this Christmas day. Amen.