An act of worship at home
2nd Sunday of Christmas
Reading John 1 vv 1-18
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. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
On Christmas Day we had the wonderful story of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s Gospel, the account of a baby in a stable, of shepherds, and angels in the town of Bethlehem. Mark’s totally ignores the birth and childhood of Jesus. Matthew tells of the star and King Herod and the visit of the Wise Men. John condenses the story into one profound but simple poetic phrase: “The word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”
What a different view this is from the detailed stories of Luke and Matthew. John has no manger or shepherds or kings, he gives the birth of Jesus its universal context. John gives us a view of how God moves in the hearts and lives of human beings.
This is a truth assuring us that through Christ God is not a stranger to human beings but with us always. This is how God was made known to us. Jesus as the human face of God. God with us is the truth by which we find God.
In a minute we’re going to sing a well known carol, “In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone… snow had fallen, snow on snow, in the bleak mid-winter long, long ago.”
After the year we’ve just had we all know that some days, some years, seem darker than others. Today we stand before a future not only unknown, but before a future in which, as know all too well, anything can happen.
Is there room for God; is there room for faith in our world today? On that first Christmas night, when the Earth was barely able to welcome him, Jesus was born, a baby in Bethlehem. Does he come again today?
“Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air… but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshipped the beloved with a kiss.” Christmas is God’s work , God’s risk for intimacy with you and me.
Mary kissed her baby; and God kissed the Earth. Now God wants to kiss the earth again, in Bethlehems all around the world in the land between you and me. “What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb… If I were a wiseman, I would do my part, yet what can I give him … give my heart.”
As we look at the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke and Matthew, we might ask, “What is the point of these birth stories? What is the point of the shepherds and the angels and the Wise Men?” The essential answer is that Jesus is a flesh and blood person, just like us, just like every human being. This is a reminder of God’s initiating the relationship with us, God’s movement toward us. This is God coming into our world and into the midst of our lives whoever and wherever we may be. John’s is the story of how through the gift of Jesus we might know how to be truly human; it is an invitation for us to live as children of God.
John moves us from the wonder of the Christmas pageant, from the specific details of the birth in Bethlehem, to the bigger picture, so we may move from the specifics of our lives to the broader view of God’s creation.
And for that creation, this Christ born to us and for us, is the light that illumines all: a light that shines away all the darkness.
We pray for the Church, for the great Church throughout the world, and for our own church community joining today in worship and prayer.
May we remember Jesus every day, grow in understanding of him, and learn to love you and our neighbours.
Fill us with your Spirit, and make us people of peace, of faithful prayer and loving action.
We pray for the whole world; for the people, the animals, the earth, the sea and the air.
May all that you have made be sustained in peace and harmony, and may all your creatures share in the goodness of creation.
Bring healing to all who are suffering, and may all your people share in hope.
We pray for ourselves, for our families and our friends, for all those we love and for those we find it hard to love.
May young and old respect one another, and the generations honour one another.
May nothing divide us or come between us, but let your love bind us in affection.
Bless us with your peace, that together we may praise you forever.
- In the bleak mid-winter
frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;
snow had fallen,
snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak mid-winter,
- Our God, heav’n cannot hold him
nor earth sustain;
heav’n and earth shall flee away
when he comes to reign
in the bleak mid-winter
a stable-place sufficed
the Lord God almighty,
- Enough for him, whom cherubim
worship night and day,
breast full of milk, and a
manger full of hay;
enough for him, whom angels
fall down before,
the ox and ass and camel
- Angels and archangels
may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim
thronged the air
but his mother only,
in her maiden bliss,
worshipped the Beloved
with a kiss.
- What can I give him,
poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man,
I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him –
give my heart.
May the road rise up to meet you,
may the wind always be at your back.
May the light shine warmly on your face.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.