This has been a unique weekend beginning with Christmas Eve on Friday, Christmas yesterday, and today when we traditionally celebrate the feast of the First Martyr, Stephen, and in the rest of the English-speaking world, Boxing Day recalling the time when young apprentices were given a box of food and allowed to go home to visit their families.
If there is a common theme in our readings, it seems to me has to do with new situations and relationships. The second person writing to the exiles as the Prophet Isaiah speaks of vindication and a new spirit of righteousness and praise. Zion will be called by a new name.
The second person writing as Isaiah speaks of a nation in new relationship with the God who will redeem them from captivity in Babylon, and the Apostle Paul writes to the Jewish Christians in Galatia that they are a people with a new relationship with God through the saving work of Christ Jesus. No longer are they to consider themselves slaves to the law.
Through Christ they have been redeemed from under the law and have become children through adoption by God. They have received the Spirit that they might call on God as Abba! Daddy.
The key to this is their faith, not necessarily a belief, but an openness to relationship with God who is waiting to surround them with Grace. Given the openness to relationship, God makes us heirs of the promise and through the work in us of the Spirit we come to fullness in that relationship.
This relationship is with and through the one that our patron calls the Word. In Greek the term is Logos—a familiar word for Christians. Many Christian bookstores go by the name Logos, and Christians have come to associate Logos only with Christ but they miss its usage at the time.
In the Greek language usage of the time, logos had many meanings. It meant literally ‘word’ but its connotation was essence, the thing, the core.
And that is just the usage that we find in this the start of the gospel. For the evangelist John the second person of God which becomes in-fleshed in the person of Jesus is the essence, the core from the very beginning.
John writes of the unitive nature of God—God is at the beginning and what John terms as the Logos is the conduit through which all things came into being. All things—both animate and inanimate—all things.
That aspect of God was essential at the beginning and remains so. Just as the very nature of all things in Creation were created by God speaking a word. As will be revealed in Jesus is all about life and light. Jesus will offer humanity a new relationship—life-giving and dispelling the darkness of human sin in all its aspects.
This portion at the beginning of the Gospel, called the prologue, also places John the Baptist into relationship with the Logos. He was sent from God to testify to Jesus so that all might believe through him.
But while there were many who came to new relationship with God through John’s call to repentance, not all of Israel does. The evangelist laments what we know so well. There was great hope that all would come to new relationship but by the time that the evangelist is writing, Jews have banished the Christians from their fellowship.
The sad reality is that Jesus has come to his own people, and they have not universally accepted him. Yet God has provided through Jesus the grace and truth for a new way of relating to the divine.
Some have termed this the most theological passage in the New Testament. It is certainly packed with significance for us. We are the beneficiaries of God’s desire to bridge the gap between the divine and humanity. We are offered the fruits of this in our lives.
This offer is both a blanket offer to all humanity and it is also a specific offer to communities of faith and to each of us as individuals.
Together as a community we discover God’s grace and truth for us and those with whom we will minister in this region and in other parts of the world.
As individuals we are offered the relationship that is simultaneously always new and yet solid and reliable.
But a word of warning, this relationship is for the long haul. It takes commitment to regular worship, regular prayer, and digging into God’s word through scripture and being attentive to God’s direction in our lives.
Today the church struggles with the consumer mentality of the wider culture. Of course we are consumers of the experience but that is in my view different from bringing a consumer mentality to our faith.
Our faith is more than entertainment. Our relationship is more important than entertainment. Perhaps because we concentrate on the blessed assurance that comes through Jesus and not on fear, our approach may not be taken seriously by those on the Christian right.
Our approach emphasizes the healthy love that God wants to characterize human relationships with each other and with the divine.
Once again I leave you with the mission of the church from the Episcopal standpoint. You can find it in the Outline of the Faith, our Catechism, on page 855 of the Prayer Book: The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
All people in unity in Christ—the ultimate new relationship open to us today and in the New Year. Amen.