January 05, 2020 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: John 1:1-18
Well, Merry Christmas, everybody. That was a better response than I was expecting, good!
I was thinking you'd probably look at me funny, wondering what I'm talking about, but I think we're in a good place here. It is indeed still the season of Christmas one last Sunday here, and then we head into Epiphany. And I think what I like the most about how the church treats Christmas versus how our society does is, you know, as soon as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day are over, the stores already have the clearance going right up front. You can buy all the Christmas candy at a discount and all the decorations. 'Course at Hobby Lobby, it's always 50 percent off no matter what time of the year, Right?
But it's immediately over as soon as Christmas Day is done, but the church has it linger on twelve days. And there's this beauty to that juxtaposition in our society, because Christmas indeed lives on beyond that day. And so the celebration of Christmas indeed lives on beyond that day as well.
Well, I think John was a stranger to that thought. I think, in John, you don't see a narrative of Christmas morning. There's no shepherds, there's no angels, there's no manger. Joseph and Mary are not looking for a room at the inn. Instead, John is reflecting on how Christmas lives on. The gospel starts with "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Very powerful statement, but one maybe that we don't really fathom too well in our English language: "In the beginning was the Word." We capitalized it, so that makes it more important; it's Christian now.
There's more to it than "the Word"; there's more to it than words in general. This Greek concept of the logos goes so much deeper than words. It's this idea of concepts of divine order. It's where language comes from, which is why we talk about it as "the Word," but that's not the full definition. It's this arena of thought, of wisdom.
So John is reflecting on this, and John is reflecting on how that can seem quite impersonal, this idea of logos. And yet this thing, this order of concepts and divine order and words and language and ideas and thought, this thing created the world, and this thing is a real person for you and for me. He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him.
It's difficult for us to grasp a concept such as the logos; it's where we get the word logo from, maybe that helps a little bit. You know, when you think of the golden arches, right? What immediately comes to mind? McDonald's? Yeah. McDonald's comes to mind, and it's not just the name McDonald's, it's everything McDonald's means to you in your life. McDonald's has a corporate structure. Sells cheap hamburgers. Right? All the commercials: *Ba Da Da Da Da* Right? All of that is packed into that logo. Your own experiences of going to McDonald's, maybe your parents took you as a kid, and it was a special treat. Maybe you have a bad experience at McDonald's. We know, nationally, someone did with the hot coffee. Right? Your own personal experiences get wrapped up into that logo as well, because it represents more than just words.
Jesus represents more than just words as well. And for this concept of, you know, this realm, this understanding of divine order and ideas and imagination and language and all of that wisdom. This hard-to-define thing becomes incarnate in Jesus. John goes on to say that those that took Jesus at His word, God gave the power to become children of God. They lived a changed life, affected by who this incarnate Word is. And it wasn't just a new concept or a new thought or a new a-ha. It was a new experience.
I think we are called in the same way to proclaim. I think a lot of us get caught up in that we need to somehow change people's minds to somehow convert them personally to Jesus Christ for the sake of salvation. But our job is to proclaim this incarnate logos for the sake of the world, this Word made flesh, to invite into an experience of Jesus so that this may mean something for them as well: that they can be witnesses to our changed lives by this good news, by this good Word. And we get caught up in thinking we have to know everything and understand everything.
As fun as it is to talk about the logos, I know much less about it than I'm pretending to know in front of you now. There are some things that are hard to grasp and understand and to internalize and to think that we can know everything about everything. I'll give an example: for those of you that saw the new Star Wars movie, raise your hand. All right. Yeah, a few out there. Who proudly has never seen a single Star Wars movie, raise your head as well. Okay. All right. We're a little outnumbered, Star Wars fans.
But think about, for those of us that went to the Star Wars movie, we all saw the same thing. We all saw the same movie, but we all had a slightly different understanding of what that movie is. We all had a slightly different experience of what that movie is. And I could line ten of us up on these stairs right here, and we could all say, you know, our impression of it, give our review of it, say all the things that happened in it. And it would give you who haven't seen it, or who refused to see it, a concept of what we're talking about, but it doesn't give you the experience of what we know in Star Wars, right? But what we can do is we can invite you into the experience to see for yourself.
Hans Geyer Gottheimer, a famous philosopher, a favorite one of mine, came up with this idea of language that is probably very disappointing to hear. But the concept goes that, by the time I have a thought or the time I think I understand the concept or I'm trying to grasp at something out there and I try to explain it to you, by the time I think about it and put it into words, it has already lost its original meaning because I've had to narrow the definition of what I'm thinking about into this framework. And then by the time you hear it, you have an interpretation of what those words mean. And by the time you hear the words and understand the concept in your own mind of what I'm saying, we don't mean the same thing. It's disappointing, right, but it's true. So how can we communicate the love of God? How can we proclaim the message in a way that not only we can understand ourselves, but others can understand as well?
John talks about a man who was sent from God, whose name was John, who came as a witness to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. John goes on to say that this other John, he himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light that the true Light was coming into the world.
We don't know it all. And quite frankly, we never will. That's not an excuse not to pursue and study, but we don't know it all. Our language fails us in communicating the greatest of concepts. But what we can do is we can witness and testify to the light that is Jesus Christ, who Himself is a symbol. The name "Jesus" carries so much with it, the incarnate Word: born, died, rose again for our sake, for the forgiveness of sins and the welcome into eternal life, the undying love of God in the person of Jesus Christ. We can testify to the light; we can share our changed lives with others. We can invite them into an experience that we know, a love that we know, that they might experience it for themselves. We can share the grace upon grace that is so dear to our hearts. For the way to understand God is to know Christ. Amen.