The Gospel: John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
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.
Optional parts of the readings are set off in square brackets.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Here we are, once again, at that night which we celebrate each year that is full of a wide range of emotions.
For some, this night will be full of wonder, for some, it will be a night of loss and longing, for some, it will be a night of unparalleled joy, for some, it will be a night with a sense of duty and obligation, for some, it will be filled with, a never felt before, sense of awe and anticipation.
We come to this night acknowledging that we don't understand or comprehend every aspect of what it is about. But we know that this is like no other night of the year.
Tonight we hear the narration of events from the Gospel of John. John wastes no time in establishing the divine nature of this event. We are struck by divine mystery and we seek to understand the essence of who Jesus is.
The Word became flesh. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
John launches into his narration by linking the events of the very beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures with what is happening here in the events of Jesus' birth. I will talk more about that on Sunday morning.
Tonight I want to focus and concentrate our attention on the human nature of this event. A miracle wrapped up in human flesh.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was on television this morning talking with one of the morning show crews. He was full of his normal joy and enthusiasm. But then he got a little more serious and he spoke about the miracle of creation as it is represented in us all. I believe what he said was: "we have to remember that this is a miracle, after all, we did not create ourselves, each one of us was created."
Now not everyone has a positive experience from their past or their family background. Those of us who do are blessed to know the love and joy of being part of a purposeful, and expectant, creation.
At Christmas time we get to celebrate the most purposeful and expectant creation. That creation results in the birth of the Christ, the Messiah, the savior of the world. In the original creation, God spoke and each time he did something was created. God continually said throughout that process "it is good."
Here in our celebration of the nativity of Jesus, we get to participate, to rejoice, to recognize and affirm this ultimate example of God's good creation.
In the word becoming flesh the redemption of creation, the redemption of humanity begins. We get to be part of that wonderful event and we get to look forward to the many other wonderful events that will come from it.
As we look at the nativity, we look at common human beings gathering around the ultimate expression of God's love for his creation. We see in the eyes of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and even the magi, who come later, the wonder of what is happening in these humble circumstances. The Word became flesh. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
When we are truly able to put aside all our human reasoning, and perhaps our personal hurt and pain, to put aside our well worked out formulas for life and our self-reliance, when we seek to engage with this miraculous divine mystery, we will experience the nativity in a new and powerfully redemptive way.
We may then be able to join with countless others who have proclaimed down through history the words we find in Canticle 20 and Canticle 21 with joy and anticipation. I invite you to say these two Canticles with me this Christmas Eve responding out of grateful hearts and with minds open to comprehend these divine mysteries in a new way.
You can find them in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 94 and 95. Can you turn there with me now and let us read them together with enthusiasm and drive.
Glory to God Gloria in excelsis
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand
of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
You are God Te Deum laudamus
You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord; we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not shun the Virgin's womb.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God's right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.
Bishops & Father Mike