Second Sunday of Christmas
Our reading of the birth narrative this morning doesn’t tell of a compassionate innkeeper or smelly sheep and shepherds. In fact, you can hunt John’s gospel for the Virgin Mother Mary or a carpenter named Joseph, and you won’t find them. Instead, on this second Sunday of the Christmas season, we hear: In the beginning was the Word, Do you hear the echo of those first words in the book of Genesis? In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
Our words take on flesh, too. Every day our words take on flesh and live among us. Look at the words “hatred” and “anti-Semitic.” In 2019, there was a significant rise in expressions of hatred toward Jewish people. “’There’s an ideological pattern that is common,’ said Günther Jikeli, an expert on European anti-Semitism at Indiana University. ’The world is seen as in a bad shape, and what hinders it becoming a better place are the Jews.’ It is unsurprising to find a resurgence of anti-Semitism at a time of prolonged political and economic instability, historians and analysts say, when citizens from many different political and cultural traditions are grasping for easy explanations for sudden and complex injustices.”
Because of advances in technology, lies and venom spread with unprecedented speed. The ways in which we embody words are innumerable–words such as discrimination and prejudice. Words can kill our self-esteem, fuel the fires of hate, and more.
On the seventh day of Hanukkah, a man entered a rabbi’s home where more than 100 people were gathered. He began stabbing people. Five were injured. This marks the latest in a string of incidents that have targeted the Jewish community in New York. This is the word “anti-Semitism” made flesh.
The ELCA confessed our own sinfulness with regard to the Jewish people, apologizing in our 1994 “Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community.” While this 26 year-old statement is a start, we are by no means finished when our Jewish brothers and sisters continue to be harmed. We are nowhere near God’s desire for us as long as our black neighbors, our gay neighbors, our homeless and our poor neighbors suffer injustices. Stating our complicity in these sins is only one step on the road to the wholeness God desires for humanity. There is more that God calls us to do, and more words for us to embody.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, told us how God wants us to use our bodies. I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me. [Matthew 25:35-38, 40]. Words of understanding, forgiveness and love give life. The embodiment of them was expressed by the prophet Micah. What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [Micah 6:8b].
When the Word became flesh, Jesus showed us how God wants us to use our bodies by how he used his. He gave living water to the woman from Samaria. He put human well-being above the law by healing someone on a sabbath day. He brought wholeness to the bodies of those who were blind and to the lame. His hands caressed his disciples’ feet and washed them. Tears streamed down his face when his friend Lazarus died. Jesus taught thousands of people about God’s love for them, and then he fed them all of them without asking for their credentials. He fed them because they were hungry. I am the bread of life, Jesus said. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and lived among us. God’s son lived among us in the flesh until we nailed him on a cross and left him there until his lungs filled with fluid, and his heart stopped beating. God’s love shown to us through Jesus can never die. Jesus promised to be with us, his flesh and blood in bread and wine. In the mystery of Holy Communion, we invite God’s presence in and through and under this meal with this prayer, Come among us. Bless this meal. May your Word take flesh in us.
~Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin