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A fiery start

Sermon , Sunday January 5th, 2020, Christmas 2A

Away in a manger
John 1: 10-18  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Christmas and New Year has been burnt off, over shadowed, by so many bushfires raging. Can you imagine being in Mallacoota in SE Victoria and plunging into the sea to escape the oncoming blaze. We were over that way a couple of years ago. Beautiful forest and beach part of Australia – but hardly any roads – one way in and one way out. That would have been scary. 

 I ask myself, what does the arrival of God in the flesh mean as we begin this fiery 2020?

St John will help us. I am not sure you could plunge yourself into deeper water when pondering who Jesus is and what his arrival means than diving into the deep end of the pool in John’s gospel beginning. 

We know it well. “In the beginning was the Word….”

“In the beginning…”. We are right back at that other mysterious place – pre-history – ‘Beginnings’; the “Book of Beginnings”; the Book of Genesis, John has seen and heard a new beginning, a new creation coming out of the old one; breaking into the existing one. 

John has seen Light. Not a heated blazing destructive fire but light by which to walk and see and live through the devastation of fire. 

Jesus is the light of all light, he says. Jesus is like sun is to planet earth. Every other star and the moon and all other plants, animals, trees and rocks exist under that sun’s light. 

John says we need this Light. 

“If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles.” (John 11:9-10).

So, it seems that this Light, even though it is THE Light for living this life, is actually hard to see – like the sun blocked out by that terrible dark thick smoke.

How do you know this Light of life? Luther is wise here:

“This is the criterion by which to judge true and false teachers. Pious, Christian teachers direct the people away from themselves and to Christ, as St. John does here with his testimony, and as we (God be praised) and others also do.  For all our sermons tend toward this one goal, that you and we know and believe that Christ is the only Saviour and Consolation of the world and the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  The Gospel points to Christ exclusively; and this is in complete agreement with the testimony of St. John. For this reason, we do not attract the people to ourselves; we lead them to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)”.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4.

(J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, pp. 60–61). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Isn’t this our goal as this fiery year begins? Isn’t this our hearts desire for all those suffering loss or mourning death, and dealing with danger across this country? Isn’t this always our goal no matter the weather, or the threat or the ease? 

Our goal is John’s goal and Luther’s goal, to point people to Jesus so they receive him as their Shepherd, Bishop Saviour, Pastor, Lover of the broken and the suffering. 

 Why so? Because of what this Light gives. 

The Light has arrived in time and space; in our human history. Like those people stuck in make-shift camping areas and town camp sites as we speak, God turned up, and back in the camper or the caravan or pitch the tent with all the other travellers on planet earth, and stayed with us.

Receiving and believing this man and his words of promise of life beyond any fire, flood, disaster or death affords any Aussie a new place, a new name, a new status, a new light that shapes our life like the sun. 

Because he came to us, sought us out, chose us, loved us, stays with us we are now children of God. You are a child of a loving Father, a brother to this Saviour, a member of his family.

This is his glory. We have seen his glory….

“The evangelist wants to say that Christ not only demonstrated His humanity with His actions, by dwelling among the people so that they could see Him, hear Him, speak with Him, and live near Him until His thirty-fourth year, by suffering cold, hunger, and thirst in this feeble and wretched human form and nature, but that He also displayed His glory and power in proof of His divinity. Of this He gave proof with His teaching, His preaching, His signs and wonders, convincing anyone of His Godhead who was not blinded and hardened by the devil, as the high priests and scribes were.  By word and deed He proved that He was God by nature: He healed the sick and raised the dead; in short, He wrought more and greater miracles than any prophet before Him, in fact, than any other human being ever was able to do”.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, p. 114). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

I am hearing the stories of these people in everyday Australian towns in this tragedy and I see his glory at work in and among them. 

  1. “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41); and:

  2. “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14); and: 

  3. “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43); 

  4. “Rise, take up your bed and go home, be delivered of your sickness” (Matt. 9:6); 

  5.  “Be clean!” (Matt. 8:3; Luke 17:14).

  6. And for those 5000 people camped near Capernaum on Lake Galilee, who ate their fill that day by the sea: “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14). 

  7. Or, when that storm came up when they were in that small boat at night with him and He silenced that chaos, and they were amazed and asked that crucial question: “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?” (Matt. 8:27).

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, p. 114). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Child of God, you have been given that precious right. Use it well as 2020 begins with such a challenge. 

Pray that the Lord of all creation would silence this chaos. 

Love as he loves. 

Be with people as he is with them and with you.

Do what you can, as he does his healing work through you, his child.

Be his Light:

a cold drink to a thirsty man, 

a visit via phone or letter or in the flesh; 

some money to help the rebuilding, 

a simple word telling of God in the flesh, in this land of sweeping plains and mountain ranges, flames and floods.

O Lord, when fires rage and consume the land,  Stir up in us the fire of your love. 

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