My friends in Christ, I think it would be a safe assumption to say that each of us has our favorite things in life. A favorite musician, a favorite poem, a favorite book, a comfort food that makes us feel good inside, and yes, even favorite people. When it comes to people, I have a favorite cousin. His name is Steve. Although his family grew up on the south side of Chicago, every summer they’d drive through Wisconsin, make the turn north at Duluth, and spend their vacation with the family back home. Steve and I are contemporaries. We were each others best man and we share the same family memories and experiences. Steve has always been the cousin who saved my ass, time and time again, when we’d done something stupid or gotten into trouble. I can use the word ass in church because it’s in the bible. Steve saved my ass again, thanks to an email he sent earlier this week as I prepared this sermon. This is what he sent me: “One day God was looking down at earth and saw all of the rascally behavior that was going on. So God called one of the angels and sent the angel to earth for a time. When he returned, he told God, “Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not.” God thought for a moment and said, “Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another opinion.” So God called another angel and sent him to earth for a time, too. When the angel returned he went to God and said, Yes, it’s true. The earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are being good.” God was not pleased. So God decided to email the 5% who were good, because God wanted to encourage them, give them a little something to help them keep going. Do you know what the email said? No? Okay, just wondering. I didn’t get one either.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas. Through the incarnation –God with skin on– God sent us something much better than an email. God sent us God, as a human being. Our Gospel today, John’s Prologue, is prose and poetry with no equal. Saint Augustine wrote that his friend Simplicius told him he had heard a Platonic philosopher say that this prologue of St. John’s gospel was “worthy to be written in letters of gold.” The synoptic Gospels pale in comparison to the depth of John’s writing. They deal with Christ’s life and his actions and acts among us. John’s Gospel is all about the spiritual and cosmic nature of Christ –the life and soul– of God with skin on. Verse 14 of our Gospel today: “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” is full of that incarnation. Indeed, “lived among us” is more properly understood as “pitched his tent among us.” God wanted to know us. God wanted to see and hear and touch and smell and taste what God had made. That’s how much God loves us. The message is one of love. Later on in this great gospel, Jesus says this: Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
To that, my friends, let the church say AMEN.