Sunday, December 31, 1995

First Sunday after Christmas Day - Year A - 1995

First Sunday after Christmas Day

This Sunday takes precedence over the three Holy Days which follow
Christmas Day. As necessary, the observance of one, two, or all three
of them, is postponed one day.

Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of
thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, enkindled in
our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through the same
Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Preface of the Incarnation

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: Isaiah 61:10--62:3
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
62 1 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. 2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. 3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
The Word of the Lord

147 Laudate Dominum page 804 or 806

1 Hallelujah!
How good it is to sing praises to our God! *
how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!
2 The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; *
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted *
and binds up their wounds.
4 He counts the number of the stars *
and calls them all by their names.
5 Great is our LORD and mighty in power; *
there is no limit to his wisdom.
6 The LORD lifts up the lowly, *
but casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; *
make music to our God upon the harp.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds *
and prepares rain for the earth;
9 He makes grass to grow upon the mountains *
and green plants to serve mankind.
10 He provides food for flocks and herds *
and for the young ravens when they cry.
11 He is not impressed by the might of a horse; *
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;
12 But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him, *
in those who await his gracious favor.
13 Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem; *
praise your God, O Zion;
14 For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; *
he has blessed your children within you.
15 He has established peace on your borders; *
he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
16 He sends out his command to the earth, *
and his word runs very swiftly.
17 He gives snow like wool; *
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
18 He scatters his hail like bread crumbs; *
who can stand against his cold?
19 He sends forth his word and melts them; *
he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.
20 He declares his word to Jacob, *
his statutes and his judgments to Israel.
21 He has not done so to any other nation; *
to them he has not revealed his judgments.

A reading from the Letter of Paul to the Galatians: Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7
23 Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. 24 So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian;
4 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.
The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel is written in the first chapter of John,
beginning at the first verse.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John. John 1:1-18
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 were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But 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 nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'") 16 And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
The Gospel of the Lord.

Christmas I - Year A

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 nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Over the last few years I have noticed a sort of renaming of the Holy Trinity which I find bothersome. Perhaps you have heard or seen a reference to the, "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier." I recently saw three banners using this terminology. The first one showed a symbol of God the Father--an all seeing eye, but had the word, "Creator" underneath. The second banner had a Cross for God the Son, but underneath was the word, "Redeemer", and the third showed a dove for God the Holy Spirit, but was entitled, "Sanctifier".

This bothers me. The fact that it bothers me is of little, if any consequence. The fact that it bothers the Apostle, and Evangelist John, is, however, of the greatest consequence. John tells us many important things about God in His Gospel. He, in fact, is also known as Saint John the Theologian, because of the beautiful heights and depths of his theology to be found in his Gospel.

Some have said that John, the patron saint of this parish, is symbolized by an Eagle because his Gospel soars in the heavens compared to the other Gospels. And up until recently, His understanding of the Trinity, and of the nature of God was believed to be so sophisticated, that many scholars had assumed that the Gospel of John must have been written in the late second century.
That assumption proved to be false when a fragment of his Gospel was found several years ago that testing proved to be much older than the late second century, in fact, it may have been penned by the Apostle himself.

John's sophisticated theology is not due to the Gospel being written by Christians of a later age who knew more, but by the Apostle who knew more than we do, because he knew God. He knew God the Son, who was his best friend, and describes himself in relation to our Saviour as "the one whom Jesus loved."

He knew God the Holy Spirit, because Jesus had promised him and the others that the Holy Spirit would enlighten their minds so that they could understand and teach the faith to others.

He knew God the Father because Jesus, His Son, manifest the Father to the whole world in the Incarnation, as we heard in this morning's Gospel.

Because John, knew God, John shared this knowledge with us in his Gospel. In the opening words, we hear that Jesus, the eternal Word of God is with God, and is God. We also read that through the Son, all things were made.

God the Father as Creator, ignores that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also our Creator. The entire Trinity Created the world, and all of us in their image. That is what my Bible says, and that is the Word of God received by this Church.

Likewise, God sent His Son to Redeem us, that is, to make us His people, as he declared long ago. And we accept Jesus by faith given us through the Holy Spirit. And God the Father Sanctified us by calling us His, and declaring us righteous, while God the Son sanctified us by His blood, and God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us by faith and grace and the water of our baptism. Therefore, God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit--all three persons of the Trinity Created us, Redeemed us, and Sanctify us.

This new trend to represent the Trinity by action rather than by name is bad theology and is contrary to Scripture as well as the faith received by this Church. Paul tells us in His Letter to the Galatians, that it is the Holy Spirit within us that cry's, " Abba, Father!"

But none-the-less, this discussion of the Trinity has not yet touched upon that which John would have us know above all other aspects of the Nature of God. There is something which is more important our Creation, and Redemption, and Sanctification, and it is more important than anything else that God has done for us, because it is the impetus, the reason, that God acts for us at all.

This crucial aspect of the Nature of God is that God loves us. Not only is the identifying nature of God--that he loves us unconditionally, has always called us His own, and has promised to take us to Himself through His Son--but it is this love of God for us that John recognized personally, that is the identifying nature of who John is, and how he sees himself.

Four times in his Gospel, he refers to himself as the one "whom Jesus loved". This is not a denial that Jesus, that is, God loves all of us, but rather a recognition of who the man John was.

You see, John was not just a great theologian, he is also a great anthropologist. Theology is the study of God, and there is no better student than John. Anthropology is the study of man, and again, none has bettered that Apostle. We are God's Creatures, and we are also His people. But most of all, we are the ones whom God loves. That is our nature, the aspect of us that defines who we are.

I can think of no better patron Saint to symbolize this parish. We at Saint John's are more than just God's people, we are God's beloved.

To a Jew, to be called God's people was birthright--born of blood and flesh, one would become a Jew. But as promised, all believe in his Name, that is, Jesus Christ are his by being born of God. We are therefore, sons (and daughters), and we are heirs.

Would that we lived our lives as testimony to our nature. Would that we could all see ourselves as the ones whom Jesus loved, and would that we could be known that we are sons (and daughters) of God by our love for Him, and for one another.

I read a headline in the paper yesterday to the effect that we ought to make our New Year's resolutions rather easily attainable, so that we don not feel defeated if do not keep them. On the other hand, as servant of God, I am going to recommend something far more difficult. I suggest that each of us set our sights higher, and reach for that which God would desire. We ought to resolve ourselves to living our lives as God's beloved, and moreover, living our lives always cognizant that each other is one of God's beloved.

I guarantee that if we as a parish make this resolution for the new year that we will simultaneously fail miserably, and succeed gloriously. God's beloved forgive because they have been given forgiveness. God' beloved pray for each other because God the Son prays for us, God's beloved help each other because God saves us, and God's beloved love one another, because God first loved us.

And when we start to think that someone is so impossible to deal with that we cannot any longer forgive, and pray, and help, and love, then remember that this is exactly what could say about us, but he forgives, and helps, and prays, and loves none-the-less.

John's sophisticated theology is not so easy for us. He saw God love, and heard him pray, he saw the miracles, and the Crucifixion, and he saw the Risen Lord. He laid his head on Jesus breast when our Lord was about to be betrayed. We lack that intimacy with God that John was blessed to have known.

And yet we know God through John, in part because of the words of hope and love that he gave to us. We have those words too, and we have Christ with us as well, because we have His Spirit working in us through His Church. In the coming year, let us also bring this message of hope and love to others--because all need it.

In the New Year, let us become Evangelists like John, not by writing great theological works nor by going to foreign lands to preach the Good News, of God made flesh, but by showing the love we have been given so that others desire to know its source. How wonderful if each of us will at some time during the coming year be asked why we behaved in such a way, and our answer would be, because it is how God would have me behave towards others, because that is how He is with me.

To be able to make that statement is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. And to be asked to explain that statement is a manifestation of His, not our own, Grace--because "from His fulness have we all received, grace upon grace."

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Copyright © 1995 W. Crews Giles

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