The Message, January 2, 2022, "The Life of the Party!"

The Message, January 2, 2022, "The Life of the Party!"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
January 04, 2022

 

“The Life of the Party”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
John 1:10-18

            This is usually the party season. These two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year are typically the time for office parties, family gatherings and celebrations with groups of friends to ring in the New Year. However, we know that things have been different the last couple of years. The surge in the Omicron variant certainly put a damper on things. We could call COVID the Grinch that stole Christmas … and all of the other things that we used to enjoy!

            But … I think that we can still remember what parties used to be like. Right? Parties … even among grown adults … can take on some of the characteristics of a Middle School dance. There are the wallflowers … the shy and sometimes awkward folks; the minglers … they move comfortably around the room moving from group to group with ease; the facilitators … they are a special category of mingler … they introduce people and try to meet new people. And then there is a very special participant … the life of the party.

            You know who they are. They always have a group of minglers around them. The wallflowers listen from a safe distance. They are gregarious and confident, they tell great stories, they are engaging and funny. Sometimes, they are particularly gifted and will sit down at a handy piano and play for a few tunes for everyone’s entertainment.

            There are times when the phrase is used in a derogatory or pejorative way. The annoying guy is the ‘life of the party!’ Or at least he thinks that he is.

            But generally speaking, the life of the party is the person that we all want to be around. When we receive the invitation to the party, we think, “Oh, I hope that so-and-so is going to be there!” There is a lure, or a draw, that pulls people in. People want o be near them, to be included in their circle. They may hope that some of their popularity will shine upon them.

            Some of you here this morning, or some of you watching online, may be the life of the party. If you are one who is the life of the party, thank you for taking the pressure off of the rest of us. I am NOT in the ‘life of the party’ category. (Shocking … I know.) I tend to hang with the wallflowers.

            I think that I can safely say that Jesus was the ultimate Life of the Party! In fact, there is no party without him. In fact, there is NOTHING without him!

            Our Gospel lesson for this morning is very different from the one that we read last Sunday, or on Christmas Eve, and it is very different from the one that we will read next Sunday. The Gospel of John does not include a Nativity narrative in the same way that Matthew and Luke do. It is more like a Creation story. The very first words from the Gospel bring us back to the very first words in the Bible …

            “In the beginning.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3)

            The Gospel of John is not just a chronology of Jesus’ life, it is the full meaning of everything he was, and is, and did. This book is all about God, the story of God and the world. The Gospel of John is much more of a ‘theological’ book than the other gospels. It considers the long arch of God’s love that began in Genesis and found its culmination in the creation of human beings. Creatures made in God’s own image.

            And then, here in John 1, the story reaches its climax with the arrival of one particular human being … the Word of God made flesh!

            Let us pause for a moment. When we speak, we take our words for granted. In most of our cases, we have been speaking since we were toddlers. However, when we speak the words that come out of us are part of us.
            It is our breath that comes forth from our lungs.
            It is the vibration of our vocal cords.
            It is the movement of our tongue, our teeth, our lips.
            Even more, it began with the thought or intention in our minds as well as the feelings in our hearts.

            Every word that we speak is a part of us. Every word that God speaks is a part of God.

            Throughout Hebrew Scripture … the Old Testament … God regularly acts by means of the Word.

            And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3) God said, over and over again, calling everything into existence.

            “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6)

            A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

            The Word of God has been active throughout history.

The Presence of God dwelled in the Temple.
The Word of God was enshrined in the Law, in Torah.

The Word of God is the life and history of the Hebrew people. The Word of God is the life and history of all humanity.

The “Word” also connected with the pagan philosophers. Ancient thinkers spoke of “Logos” … the Word … as a principle of rationality, wisdom that was part of the cosmos and within all human beings.

And then the Gospel of John brings the message to it fullest flower. The Word of God is more than some abstract philosophical principle debated in scholarly circles. The Word of God is a human being … in the flesh! And then John said, “Let me introduce him to you!”

Of course, from our perspective, we are saying, “Great! Wonderful! We love Him!”

But John makes it clear right from the very beginning that the Word did not receive a warm welcome. God sent the Word Made Flesh into the world, but the world did not recognize him. And not only did the world not recognize the Word, the world rejected him! And by “the world” John was referring to humanity. Those who were created in the image of God, did not recognize the purest expression of God’s love and light.

Humanity is the antagonist in the story, constantly at odds with the central character. Humanity prefers darkness to light. Humanity prefers distance to intimacy. That rejection of the Word creates a tension that God seeks to resolve as the story unfolds. And that tension is why grace plays such an important role in the story. Grace is necessary. Grace upon grace.

And the promise of the story is that all who recognize the Word, all who accept Him and welcome Him into their lives will receive that grace. They will bask in the love and the light. They will experience the wonderful peace of God. One does not need to born into a special family, or in a certain period of time. ALL are invited. God welcomes all humanity into this relationship.

As we sit here in the midst of the Christmas Story, we think back to where it began, we remember the words that the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary.

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. … the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 2:30b -32a, 35b)

            The Gospel of John does not include this narrative, but this is where it begins. This is the Son of God; this is God’s Word Made Flesh. God’s Son became flesh in the same manner that all of humanity is made in the flesh. The Son of God came to dwell among those who were created in God’s own image.

            No one had ever seen God. No one could ever see God … until God became flesh.

            We see God when we peer into the manger.
            We know God through Jesus Christ.
            We imitate God by following the Way of Jesus.

            In Jesus, we see the glory of God. The glory is God’s essence, God’s Presence on earth. The glory of God is not oppression, not despotic rule, not tyranny. The glory of God is the pure splendor of love.

            We have seen the glory and we desire to be in its Presence. We have seen the glory and we want to dwell in it. The Word Made Flesh dwells among us. The Word is Life! Let us celebrate! Amen.


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