New Life, God’s Grace – Pastor Jane – 12.25.2018

I saw a great mug recently – it said “I put the PRO in Procrastinating.”

It was right after I told my daughter that we’d be postponing Christmas this year. The busyness of parish life left little time for shopping and preparing. Thinking I was serious, she was a bit relieved since she too didn’t have a chance to finish doing what she had hoped before coming home – all of the things on her “to do” list.

Good news – Christmas isn’t postponed!

Bad news – there are a couple of wish lists that got buried in my inbox.

Thankfully, ours is a God of Grace… Thank God too for the gift of New Life…New Days…

Ready or not.

Look carefully at the crèche outside on our lawn and what you will always see there is a cross behind the manger. It is a reminder of what God has done for us – both in Jesus’ life and in his death. We put the gift in there last night, as we always do – as a reminder of the hope and promise that comes to each of us.

A time, a critical moment that removes the “stuff” from the Christmas season. You heard me say it this past Sunday – Christmas has become increasingly commercial. No surprise there. It threatens to take over the real, true meaning of this special gift – the heart and being of the Gospel. The reality is that there are people sitting here this morning…concerned about jobs and relationships, some waiting for test results. There are Family Members – from our own Families and this Family of Faith – who are spending Christmas in bed and at bedsides in hospital rooms and rehab facilities… Waiting for a word of hope from doctors.

Christmas is for us, the beginning of the reality of all of God’s desire for us. It celebrates our relationship with God and the world.

John’s Gospel that we just read doesn’t have the flourishes and the detail of the Christmas story. It’s different than Luke’s telling that we read last night, on Christmas Eve. John’s Gospel paints a portrait of Jesus that engages us, providing insight into who Jesus is. Jesus is identified as the ‘light of the world’ and we’re invited not just to think about who Jesus is – but to go deeper into that understanding…into what it means to be related to God through him. Scripture reminds us that people were created for relationship with God – that enables our connection and deepening understanding of Jesus – helping strengthen our relationships with one another.

Today we hear about the incarnation of Jesus – “God’s Word becoming flesh”. We hear about the humanity of the person who walked and breathed and lived among us. It’s a picture of new life, of God’s grace and God’s love made alive in Christ. The coming of Jesus into the world helps us to become who we’re meant to be, as children of God. Christmas focuses our vision on what’s happening around us. It allows us to see through the messiness of our world; and the order and hope that we so desperately need.

For our Family of Faith, the word is made flesh in all the places that we go out and share the Gospel – right here in our community in New Providence and in places like Newark and Plainfield – in Tennessee and Tanzania. God sends Jesus to us in the midst of struggle – in the pain, the grief, the hurt. To an AIDS Center and Soup Kitchen in Newark … and to tutor immigrant children in the Ironbound. And to help care for grieving families and overlooked children through Imagine and Roots & Wings. There’s the message of the Gospel – the incarnation of Jesus in our midst. God sends him to the places where there’s hurt and suffering and where we need him most, in the brokenness of our lives.

The truth is, that at the heart of Christ’s incarnation, God makes extraordinary things happen in seemingly ordinary places. He makes what seems to be impossible real and possible – with new ministries and ministry partners that help us share the story. And it’s where we are led as people of faith – as the church, and as this servant community of Faith. God meets us at Jesus’ birth with hope and claims us as his own.

Christ the Savior is born, and continues to live in the faces and in the being of all humanity. Thank God for this gift of new life. Thank God for this gift of God’s Grace. Amen.