Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stars, sagebrush, the Word and Christmas

This is my sermon from our 8am service today. It is taken from John 1:1-18

Gracious God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives. Amen.

This morning, I want to take you to a place along on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, in my native California. This is a place I have not visited in many, many years, but it is still very close to my heart.

The place is an old remote cattle ranch near the head waters of the Owens River. This ranch is located in one of the most stunning places on the planet, with high peaks above, and the desert unfolding below.

Many years ago, more years than I care to count, my buddies and I observed an annual tradition of converging on this ranch for a week of fishing.

The ranch owner would rent us an old cowhand cabin for the week. Our one-room cabin was richly appointed with cots and bunk beds, and an old wood stove. We were in our twenties and we were in heaven.

The Owens River meanders for about five miles through the ranch and we fished every bend and riffle. Each evening we had a feast.

One evening, after an amazing day of fishing and an amazing meal, I walked outside into the brisk desert night and went for a walk down the dirt road leading to the river.

And to this day, I can still picture what I saw that night as vividly as if it were last night. The stars in the sky were sharp and bright. The mountains around me shimmered in the starlight.

The road I walked seemed to lead beyond the horizon and into the sky around me. The sagebrush was as awesome and mysterious as the highest mountains beyond. Everything seemed so connected and so infinite.

The connection I felt to the stars and mountains and sagebrush was truly beyond my capacity to describe – I can only describe this connection as the Holy, as God’s life-power surrounding me.
It was night, but there was no darkness to it.
“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.”
In science, there is a principle that it is easier to have nothing than something. It would be easier to have nothing in the universe than something.

It would be easier to have a blank vacuum than to have stars and sagebrush.

But there is something, and we are very definitely something, and we are awash in light, and the darkness does not overcome it. We are all connected through the Holy, through the Word that was in the beginning and all things came into being through the Word.

John’s gospel, rendered into English, uses this peculiar term -- “The Word” – for the Greek term, “Logos.” The English translation flattens the meaning of Logos. It might be better to say “the mind of God,” but even that flattens the word.

Logos is the will of God, the deepest longing of God, to create something from nothing, to fill the darkness with light, to bring wholeness and healing to every place that is wounded and hurting. The Logos wills to give us grace upon grace.

And into that void comes Jesus, the One we call the Christ, the “word made flesh.” God longs to be with us, and so comes to us as a human being, as someone we can touch and be with.

God longs for us to understand that we are all truly connected to each other, and connected to every living thing and to every rock and every speck of stardust in the universe.

And so God comes to us as a living, breathing person this Christmas, to demonstrate that there is another way to live besides dwelling in blankness and death.

“From his fullness,” the gospel of John tell us, “we have all received, grace upon grace.”
And so it is this day and it will be this night and forever.

May this light of Christmas enkindle your heart, and may many blessings light your path in the days and year to come. AMEN

Photo at sunset at the Arcularius Ranch.

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