The First Sunday after Christmas
The Very Reverend Nicolette Papanek, Interim Dean
John 1:1-18

May my words be your Word and my heart rest in you as I speak, O Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

This morning we hear the Nativity story according to the Gospel of John. It doesn’t sound much like a birth narrative or a nativity story. Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels have different takes on the story, but they both give us pieces of what we think of as “The Christmas Story.” Mark’s Gospel takes a different direction with John the Baptist leaping onto the scene and baptizing Jesus. Yet even baptism is a beginning, a second birth, since we don’t get a birth narrative from Mark. So where is the nativity or birth narrative in John’s Gospel?

Birth, for the writer of John’s Gospel, is what takes place when light comes into the world. The book of Genesis begins with the words, “In the beginning.” “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light;” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

The opening three words of the Gospel of John are the same as the opening words of Genesis. “In the beginning.” And if that doesn’t sound like birth, what does? The same rhythm and repetition that tells the story of the first day, the second day, the third day, and so on, in Genesis, is repeated in a similar fashion to tell the story of Jesus as the Son of God.

This time of year, thanks be to God, our days are finally getting a little longer and light is coming back into the world. Perhaps we could examine one phrase from this deeply meaningful story of who Christ is and how he came into God’s world. If we ignore this part of our story – and it is our story – we risk forgetting who we are and to whom we belong.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” That’s the verse that reminds us who we are and to whom we belong. On our road to a deeper faith, light guides and sustains us.

It’s so easy for us to curse the darkness instead of remembering and praising the light. So easy for us to forget our many blessings and what a gift it is to come together week after week in worship. I ask you to think about the light. I ask you to think about where you have seen the light outshine the darkness recently. I ask you to do this because these are the things that remind us who are, and to whom we belong. We are children of light. We belong to Christ.

Think back for a moment about what has happened in your recent past to remind you of who you are and whose you are. Just one small bit of light overcomes the darkness. What was that small bit of light for you recently? (Pause.) You have remembered something about light. I saw faces light up when you remembered.

These are stories we remember and cherish. These are stories that remind us of who we are and to whom we belong. You and I belong to Jesus the Christ, the light of the world, the light that shines into the darkest places. Where darkness never wins and in the end, light always does. We are children born of the light, into light. This is the birth story of the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus, the Word of God, is the light of the world and we are children of light. AMEN.

The Very Rev Nicolette Papanek
1. Genesis 1:1-5 (NRSV)
2. John 1:1 (NRSV)
3. John 1:5 (NRSV)
4. John 1:1