Ephesians 1. 3 – 14
John 1. 1 – 18
It’s a little odd, don’t you think, to be hearing this prologue to John’s Gospel again so soon – wonderful though it is.
We’ve already considered at Christmas the incredible truth that the Word that was with God in the very beginning, became flesh, one of us – God, who created everything, took on a human face, a human name – became a person that could be heard and touched – in order to reveal his glory.
We’ve considered that – and I’m sure we all agree it’s one of the things that makes this Christian faith so beautiful, and so compelling.
So why do we need to hear it again so soon, on just the Second Sunday of Christmas? Well, I think there’s an imperative here not just to be hearers of the Word – but to do something with what we’ve heard. To be doers of the Word, as well.
We will celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany on Thursday – and the great glory of that feast is that it shows us that this Jesus, and all that he reveals to us – the work of salvation that he performs for us – is for the whole world. It is for all of humanity.
This was something that the earliest Christians had to get to grips with. In the New Testament we read about the debates over who was eligible to be called a Christian. Did they have to be circumcised first? Did they have to avoid the foods that were deemed unclean in the Jewish law? Did they have to embrace some sort of Jewishness first, in order to have access to the love and mercy of God?
Well as the Feast of the Epiphany reveals, and indeed as our first reading shows, this isn’t the case. On the Epiphany, we see that people from far away, with no connection at all to the events of the Old Testament, are second only to the local shepherds in witnessing the new-born Saviour. He is their Messiah, too.
And in Paul’s letter to the gentiles of the new Church in Ephesus that we heard this morning, everything that was promised to God’s chosen people through the pages of scripture, is promised to them as well – and to us, receiving the Word today.
We hear that God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” “He destined us for adoption as his children.” “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things.”
That’s quite an amazing thing to be a part of – for no reason other than God’s love, and his grace, offered as a free gift to us. God’s own people, as we heard in our first reading; not dependent on where we were born, or how we were raised.
It’s easy, I think, to hear this beginning to John’s Gospel, and see it simply as the fulfilment of the promises made to the patriarchs, and the prophets, over countless years; the promises we heard all the way through Advent. Something planned, delivered, received.
It is that, of course. But it is so much more. It’s not just the fulfilment of a promise to a chosen few that signals the end of their waiting. It’s the beginning of something new – a new thing for all people.
The Word that becomes flesh and lives among us, comes to incorporate us into his great work of salvation. To shine his great light on us, who dwell in darkness; so that we can shine with that light, and enlighten the dark places of our world.
I think we’re hearing it again this morning to encourage us into that great work; to be doers of the Word throughout this new year, as well as hearers of it, at Christmas.
I don’t know if you’re planning any new year resolutions – usually I forget what I’ve resolved to do before the end of January!
And in some ways it feels a little pointless this January, which is still so uncertain. So much seems to have stopped over the pandemic, and it still feels like we’re in a bit of a waiting time – waiting for the fulfilment of the promise that the light will eventually overcome the darkness.
But of course it already has. The Word is always active. I’m convinced that God has great plans for this place – and he is already at work amongst us in so many ways. Our task over the coming weeks and months will be to see where the light of this Word is leading us – and to follow.
So let this be one resolution that we make together: that we will keep our hearts open, and our minds open; and look with excitement for all the things that God is doing with us and through us. And let’s get stuck in! Amen.