Second Sunday of Christmas Year B Lectionary Reflection
January 4, 2015
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. John 1:10
Have you ever looked for something, turning everything inside out and upside down to find that one thing you seek to no avail? That one thing eludes your grasp and frantic search only to materialize when you stop your feverish hunt. You realize somewhat chastened that it was there all along, hidden in plain sight and completely accessible. I find this happens to me more than I like to admit. Usually, such frantic searches occur when I am in a hurry, have waited until the last possible minute, or have pushed aside a need, figuring that I have everything under control. The “one thing” is often keys, my calendar or cell phone, or even my glasses. Occasionally it will be a check that should be deposited or a bill that needs to be paid NOW. Once I even managed to mislay a set of essays for a composition class I was teaching. And here’s a kicker: I lost my sunglasses this past summer only to find them perched snugly on top of my own head.
The lessons for this Sunday remind me of searching for something that is right there all along. We look for God in all kinds of places when the Divine Presence is all around us all of the time. I am particularly fond of the opening passage from John’s gospel because of its almost lyrical unfolding of how God chooses to be in relationship with creation. The images of “Word” and “light” are infused with meaning, and both are quite necessary for navigating life yet are also quite often overlooked and taken for granted. Jesus, as Word and light, has always been, but because we needed more to see him, God took on physical form, flesh and bone, so that we could have a better chance of seeing what is hidden in plain sight all along. Through the life, witness, and saving grace of Jesus, we can experience and know the God we cannot see.
John tells us that even though Jesus came among God’s beloved people, not all of them accepted him. Not much has changed. Even though we have the witness of 2000-plus years of faithful disciples and also the recorded account of scripture, not all of humankind sees Jesus today. He is truly hidden in plain sight, often inside the carefully preserved and treasured edifices in which God’s people gather for worship, even more often in the poor, the lonely, the imprisoned, the widowed and orphaned, and the hungry among us. We see Jesus hidden in plain sight in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, and we hear Jesus in the word proclaimed when the Body of Christ gathers for worship.
We need those among us who, like John, can point to the light of Christ and help us see and experience the grace and mercy so freely given. We need to let go of our quest for black-and-white, easy-peasy, and cookie cutter answers that ultimately fail to satisfy and do not illumine the truth of God’s love for all of creation. We need the beloved community and the relationships that come from connection within the Body of Christ to help us see Jesus among us and in this world.
Yes, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Creative, creating, redeeming, and loving always and forever, Immanuel draws the world into eternal and right relationship. The Word made flesh seeks to turn our mourning into joy, to comfort us, to give us gladness instead of sorrow, to join the dance of the cosmos. And we, dear friends, like John before us are called to point to this Jesus, this savior of the nations who is hidden in plain sight and who will one day make this world right. Blessings on your preaching and teaching.
This Sunday’s gospel provides a good opportunity to weave a hymn into your sermon. Consider using “Love has Come” (Text: Ken Bible, Music: F. Seguin, Copyright Integrity’s Hosanna! Music) or “Peace Came to Earth” (Text: Jaroslav J. Vajda, Music: Paul Manz, Text Copyright Concordia Publishing, Music Copyright Birnamwood Publications, a division of MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc.). Both Christmas hymns work well with this passage from the opening of John’s gospel. Consider also inviting worshipers to discuss in pairs or small groups where they have seen Christ hidden in plain view during this Christmas season.
Time with Youth
Consider the power of light. Think about how Bic lighters or glow sticks at a rock concert work to illumine the crowd. Think about how one tiny candle can dispel the dark. Jesus is the light that darkness cannot overcome. With your youth have a brief worship service that begins with the light of one candle. Have someone read the gospel, pausing between each verse so that another candle can be lit. By the end of the gospel reading you’ll have 18 candles lit, and the room should be considerably brighter. Sing a hymn like “Christ be our Light” and share communion together. Invite the youth to talk about how their lives can be a light in the darkness of this world and how through their light, Christ can be illumined for others. Send them out to be bearers of light into the world. If possible give each youth a small votive in a holder with the reference to this gospel lesson written on the holder.
Time with Children
What does God look like?
Have you ever asked a group of children what God looks like? If not, this might be the Sunday to do it. You could show this Youtube video or this one, simply watch them for your own inspiration, or make a video during the Sunday school hour of children from your congregation pondering this question. Open your children’s time with a video or this line of questioning for the children present. Once they’ve given their best description of what they think God looks like, remind them that all we have is artwork that people have imagined what God looks like based on descriptions in scripture. So how do we know?
In today’s gospel lesson from John, the author tells us “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.” So how do we know what God looks like? We know about God through Jesus, who became a human like us so that we could know more about God. We know that Jesus came to us as a human, so we can imagine that we look something like Jesus. So if we want to know more about God, we can get to know Jesus better. How do we get to know Jesus better? We gather with the “Body of Christ” to worship. We hear about Jesus in scripture reading and in sermons. We experience Jesus’ presence in Holy Communion and in baptism, and we can see the face of Christ in everyone we encounter.
Hold up a mirror, or if you have one a periscope is even better. We can’t see God. We can know Jesus. And when we look at ourselves and each other, we can see a reflection of Jesus. By living our lives as followers of Jesus, we can point to him so that people can know God. Sounds a little bit complicated, but we trust these words to guide us. Finish with a simple prayer.
Photos: Victor Ramos, Cindy See, and Courtney Carmody, Creative Commons License. Thanks!