1 Sunday, January 2, 2011 2nd Sunday of Christmas Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Denver, Colorado Pastor Dena Williams

The Holy Gospel according to the community of St. John in the 1st Chapter Glory to you, O Lord In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

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And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 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. The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you, O Christ

The Word It is the 2nd Sunday of the Xmas Season according to the ancient calendar of Christendom, and the 1st Sunday of the New Year according to the secular calendar of our nation. So . . . Merry Christmas and Happy New Year be with you always! (and also with you!) Ahh . . . you must be Lutherans.

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We are a peculiar people . . . Lutherans . . . most peculiar. Hear John’s Gospel: In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was with God . . . and the Word was God. As the writer of the Gospel of John begins his Gospel, grounded in the Word, so we, as Lutheran Christians, begin our journey of faith, grounded in the Word. Other Christians, of course, also ground their faith in the Word, but Lutherans hold a peculiar view . . . a particular way of understanding . . . the Word. It was in the time of Moses. The people, freed from Egypt wandered in the desert in search of the promised land. The herds . . . the herds of cattle and sheep and goats, the herds of women and children, together with the shepherds, the men, all walked and wandered in the desert and had no place to worship God. God came to Moses and commanded him to build an ark— The Ark of the Covenant. Moses and the people built the ark, a wooden chest, covered in gold. Inside the chest the people placed tablets of stone, the ten commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Ark, carried by the people, led the way to the promised land. When the people made camp, the Ark dwelt in a tent, among the people. That’s really about all we know about the Ark— Indiana Jones and Dan Brown not withstanding— this is what we know.

4 The Ark of God, God’s presence, dwelt in a tent, a tabernacle, right in the midst of the camp of the people. The Ark of God, God’s presence, dwelt, tented, tabernacled among the people. Hear John’s Gospel: And the Word became flesh and dwelt, tented, tabernacled among us. The Word became flesh and dwelt, tented, tabernacled among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. The writer of this Gospel tells us: The Word, the Son of God, became flesh, came among us, became one of us. The Word is Jesus, Son of God. Hear again the Gospel of John: The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Long before the Gospel of John was written, the people told the story of the God of Moses. Later, the people told the story of Jesus, the Son of God. Then, much later than when the actual events occurred, the scribes, learned men and women wrote down the stories. They wrote the stories on papyrus in ancient languages— Hebrew and Greek. They copied the stories over and over again. They did their best to copy accurately, but they made mistakes, some more than others. Sometimes the scribes even changed words and phrases on purpose. They changed the text to read in ways that made more sense to them. The people gathered the stories into books, and the books into a collection of books.

5 Some stories and books survived; some did not. The stories written down by the people, the ones that survived, became the Bible. Then much, much later, the priest Martin Luther and others translated the Bible, the Word of God into the language of their people, into German and English, and then into many, many languages. Father Luther described the collection of stories this way: “The Bible is the cradle wherein lies the Christ.” We worship the Christ. We do not worship the cradle. The Bible is the Word whenever and wherever the stories point to the Word, the Son of God. But it doesn’t, not always. The Bible does not always and everywhere point to the Word, the Son of God, the Christ. It is not flawless. And so we worship the Christ, not the Bible. We worship the Christ, not the cradle wherein lies the Christ. 1. The Word is Jesus, the Christ. 2. The Word is the good news of the Christ everywhere it is found in the Bible. The Word is one more thing for Lutherans, 3. The Word is also the good news of Jesus proclaimed among the people. The good news proclaimed . . . Those who teach and preach the Gospel proclaim The Word. And that . . . makes me . . . rather anxious! Who am I, or any other pastor or teacher who are we to be charged with proclaiming the Word of God when we preach and teach? We are human, after all! We make mistakes! Well, yes we do . . .

6 We remember that we proclaim the Word when and only when our preaching and teaching points to Christ. I do my best, but I know that when my preaching and teaching points to anything other than the Good News of Jesus the Christ, and sometimes it does, I do not proclaim the Word. So, with the help of God, we do our best, then we depend on the work of the Holy Spirit among the people, that they might hear and heed the Good News in what is preached and taught. For Lutheran Christians, the Word, then, is these three things: The Word is Jesus the Christ, who was in the beginning, who became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word is found in the Bible whenever and wherever its words point to Jesus the Christ. The Word is found in proclamation whenever and wherever that which is preached and taught points to Jesus the Christ. And, you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are called to proclaim the Word, to point to Jesus the Christ. You may not be a preacher or teacher. It doesn’t matter. God gifts us all with the Word, calls us all to speak, to proclaim the Word. God gifts us all with the Word and with a word. What word does God give you in this New Year? It is a word that points to Christ— a word such as “compassion”, or “forgiveness”, Your word might be “love” or “justice” or “patience.” It might be “peace” or “grace” or “truth.” I want to hear your word for the New Year! (There’s a poster . . . put your word there!)

7 God gifts each of us with a word, a word that points to Jesus the Christ. God gives us a word to speak. When, in our relationships, our churches, homes, schools, and workplaces, wherever we find ourselves, when we speak and live out the word God gives us, our word that points to Jesus, then . . . The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. The Word of God be with you always! (and also with you!) Amen