So much has happened in the last 12 months that has been outside of our control. We’ve lost friends. Some of us have lost family members. And we’ve all lost much of what we loved about life before COVID-19 turned everything upside down. Couple all that with the statistics and graphs and predictions about 2022, and I don’t think any of us need much imagination to understand why lots of folks are at the end of their patience.
Yet here we are, sitting in church the day after Christmas, when the candy canes and colored lights are on sale and stores are already setting up for Valentine’s Day. The world around us is moving on to the next antidote for the darkness. But we aren’t. The greens are still up, the Baby is in the manger, and we are gathered here today in hope and expectation — because we know that the birth of Jesus still holds promise for us today.
As St. John says in our Gospel reading this morning, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Our world changed forever when God’s Son was born of Mary. He who is the perfect image of the Father left his rightful throne to be with us — coming to earth not as a king or a warrior but as a helpless child.
What does this tell us, that he who knows the name of every star willingly and gladly accepted the limitations of infancy? That he who scatters hail like bread crumbs would humble himself to the point where he must learn how to walk and how to speak and all of it from two feet off the ground. What does this tell us but that God wants more than anything to save every last one of us. He wants us to see who we are in his eyes: beloved men and women and children who are made in the image of God himself, made to love in return the one who loved us first.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and in the light of his presence, we can see. We can see the immensity of God’s mercy; that even amid the pain and sorrow of our world God knows and will accomplish the plans he has for us, plans for welfare and not for harm, to give us all a future with hope.
And all of this rests, not on our ability to get things right, but on the shoulders of God’s Son, who knows precisely what it means to be human, from birth to death and beyond. And it is out of that fullness, out of Christ’s life of perfect obedience and love toward the Father, that we have all received grace upon grace; that we might be given the power to become children of God.
This is the promise we possess, a promise guaranteed in Christ’s name and underwritten in his blood, a promise that will not come down with the Christmas decorations or be boxed up until next year’s holiday season because it is founded in eternity.
Hear these words: Before the world began, God knew each one of us and deemed each one of us as worthy of salvation, no matter our histories or our current struggles or even our fears about the future. God loves us regardless of any and all of that, loves us so fiercely and so selflessly that he would send his only Son into a dark and cruel world, knowing that his life of suffering and death would be what saved us from ours.
This is our hope, our light that illumines the path before us, leading us on toward glory even when we’re not sure we know how to get there — for this light is certain. This light is sure. This light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. AMEN.