Christmas Day (12/25/2011)

Lessons:Isaiah 52:7-10 Psalm 98 Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12] St. John 1:1-14

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, you gave us your only Son to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light. By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

St. John 1:1-14, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

On Tenting and Occupying

Every year the American Dialect Society chooses what it considers to be a word or expression of the year that, “most reflects the ideas, events, and themes which have occupied the English-speaking world, especially North America." In 2010 the word was “app” (so it really doesn’t even need to be an actual word…). Ben Zimmer, language columnist for the Boston Globe, and chair of the ADS’ new words committee, suggested in a recent NPR interview that the word “Occupy” is this year’s front runner.

Occupy, of course, refers to the protest movement that began in Zuccotti Park in New York City on September 17 — a movement that is known mostly for its participants, who have set up tents and cardboard boxes and sleeping bags in public areas all around the country. Central issues of the occupy movement are sometimes a bit hard to discern, but mostly related to perceived economic inequities in our country. Whether you’re inspired by this year’s occupiers, or confused by them and wish they would just go home, you have to admit that their choice of this word is an interesting one.

My American Heritage Dictionary offers as definitions for occupy: to seize possession of and maintain control over, to fill up, to dwell in or reside in, to engage, employ or busy oneself… The participants in this year’s occupy movement have certainly done their share of that!

There is an occupy movement in this Sunday’s Gospel lesson as well. In the magnificent opening verses of St. John’s Gospel, John reports that, “...the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (1:14) The Greek word for “lived” is ἐσκήνωσεν (eskēnosen), based on the root word σκηνή (skēnē), which means “tent.” In other words, God has set up a tent in our world, and has begun to occupy it. In his contemporary English version of the Bible, The Message, Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

The word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory  with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (The Message, ©1993 by Eugene Peterson, page 185)

God has moved into the neighborhood. God has set up a tent and come to live among us. God is here with the intent (pun "intented") of possessing, engaging, employing, and staying busy with us. Santa Claus, Christmas gifts, charitable gestures and holiday celebrating aside, that is what this season is all about. At Christmastime, Christians are bold to assert that in Jesus of Nazareth, God has come to live among us. God who preexists even time itself. God who is present at the beginning of all things. God who speaks into being all that is. God who is the source of light and life. God whose powerful and creative word has now become flesh and blood.

What’s more, God’s skēnē — God’s tent — has not come and gone. It has been staked into this earth for good. God moved into the neighborhood one dark, cold night in Bethlehem, and continues to be with us today. Possessing us. Engaging us. Employing us. Staying busy with us.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Our Christmas prayer for you is that you might become aware of the Word of God that is living among us. That you might know the grace and truth that Jesus brings to our lives. I hope you’ll seek out a community where you can celebrate that this weekend. (If you are in the Denver area, we highly recommend Saint Peter Lutheran Church! <g>) May God bless you richly this Christmas season!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How is St. John’s Gospel beginning different from that of St. Matthew or St. Mark or St. Luke?
  2. What does St. John tell us about Christ, that isn’t immediately apparent in the other Gospels?
  3. How has the power and presence of God touched people throughout the years?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What role does God’s Word play in my life?
  2. How might I deepen my awareness of God’s presence with me?
  3. What difference has God’s presence made in my own life?