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Christmas I December 31, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 147; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, December 31, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
Luke's Christmas Gospel,
the one we heard
Christmas Eve,
gives us
          a story  . . .
a government census,
an overcrowded town,
a worried man and pregnant woman
seeking shelter,
a stable, some animals,
a baby in a manger,
a chorus of angels,
scruffy shepherds
smelling of dank sheep’s wool
          gathered round . . .
Luke gives us
the humanity of the Son
          in his story
                   of the birth of Jesus.


John's Christmas Gospel

gives us
          a theology –
          the meaning of this baby . . .  
the Word
          who was with God
                   from before creation
                   in the work of creation . . .
the Word
          who was God
                   entering the creation
                             as the child of God.
John gives us
          the divinity of the Son.

in the wrinkled red flesh

of Luke's newborn baby
lying in a manger,
John's Word of God
is born into our lives . . .

God born into an aching world

          that dark, cold first Christmas night,
God speaking the Word
          into the dark, cold aching night
                   of our hearts' Christmas longing . . .
God came to us in Jesus,
God’s Word made flesh . . .
as a baby too young
to speak a word . . .
but already a picture
of what God was saying,
what God had been saying all along.
You have in your bulletin
a reproduction of an icon
which reveals this Word
God is speaking to us.
Here is the original.

Icon: The Word Was Made Flesh
(unknown 21st century iconographer, Seattle, WA)

The icon was written
some years ago
by a very young
twenty-first century iconographer,
a member of the congregation
of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle,
a very young iconographer
whose name is lost
in the mists
of time . . .
or perhaps
          of my memory . . .
Some of you
may have seen this image before,
but like all icons
it bears repeated
          contemplation . . .
But first, a word about icons . . .
which come to us from
the Greek and Russian Orthodox traditions.
Icons are grounded in Scripture
but they are not
illustrations of Scripture.

They are incarnations . . .
physical manifestations . . .
a word of Scripture made flesh,
(or actually, made wood and paint –
or in this particular case,
          paper and crayon).
Icons are often called
windows into heaven.
We gaze into these windows,
through these windows,
into divine reality.
The young maker
of this icon
has seen the divine reality
of the Incarnation,
the enfleshment,
of God.

Multi-colored lines
like curtains on either side
lead the eye
deep into the center of the icon,
where we see
the Christ Child in the manger,
with an angel floating above . . .
and a great heart,
filling almost the whole frame,
bursting forth from the Christ Child’s breast.
This is God’s Word made flesh,
and the Word is –
“God so loved the world,”
John tells us later in his Gospel,
“that God sent God’s only Son . . .”
to share our human nature,
to live and die as one of us.
The child Jesus grew
and became a man;
he spoke of God’s love for all,
he enacted God’s love for all.
He was God’s love for all.
Jesus sought them out . . .
the lost and lonely,
the destitute and desolate;
But he also sought out
the comfortable and complacent,
the selfish and self-sufficient . . .
because he sought out
anyone in need of God’s saving love,
which means . . . everyone.
He healed and comforted and encouraged . . .
He confronted and challenged
and called people on their stuff . . .
all for the sake of Love.

He came to what was his own  . . .
but few were willing to receive him . . .
He came as light to enlighten a dark world,
yet many did not know him,
preferring the darkness.
The fearful response to his love . . .
execution on a cross.
God’s loving response to that fear . . .
The light shone in the darkness
and the darkness has not overcome it.
And the Love once bound
by time and place in
first century Palestine –
now inhabits the earth
in every time and place . . .
in all who receive him,
who have seen his glory . . .

We have come here today
for various reasons,
by various routes,
on our own initiative we may think . . .
but it is this Love
that has sought us out,
          and, working through
          the various circumstances of our lives,
has brought us here
          for Love’s own reasons: 
That we may remember
the Divine Reality
          of who we are,
God’s own beloved children,
          made for Love.
That we may proclaim God’s word
enact God’s word in our Holy Meal,
          where all are welcome
          and all are loved
          and all are fed.
That, in this mystical feeding
with the Body and Blood of Christ,
we may become that which feeds us:
become God’s Love.

For the Love that brought us in
desires to send us out, 
into a world
where all are not welcome
all are not loved,
all are not fed.
We are God’s Love
made flesh –
          that we may
enact the words
Love compels us to speak:
          words of hope, justice, reconciliation, peace
in a world whose own words
          are so often words of despair, oppression,
                   dissension, violence . . .
God so loves that world
that God sends us . . .
We may not be welcome
where Love sends us,
We not be at home
where Love sends us,
We may be out of place
where Love sends us,
but where Love sends us,
there is Christ.
Thomas Merton
wrote a poem about it:
"Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.

But because he cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,
and yet he must be in it,
His place is with the others for whom
there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power, because
they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied status of persons,
who are tortured, bombed and exterminated.

With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world."

          found in The Good Shepherd Bulletin: weekly newsletter from
          Father David Gerardot, The Good Shepherd Ministry of the
          Ecumenical Catholic Communion, December 31, 2017
being in the world
with hearts for the rejected,
          the weak, the discredited,
as big as the heart in this icon . . .
hearts breaking for Love
and so,
sharing the passion of Christ.
Once, a long time ago,
the abbot of a monastery
said to his monks
in his Christmas sermon,
“Christ is born anew in you this day.
Let him become immense, my brothers,
let him become immense.”
The Word was made flesh
and the Word is Love . . .
born anew in us this Christmas season.
May Love become immense in us,
my sisters and brothers,
may Love become immense.