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Words are so powerful, aren’t they? We have to be very careful how we use words because once something has been said, or a letter or e-mail has been written, those words can’t be unsaid and they can’t be unwritten. The words we say and the words we write have created a world of their own; a world we may be pleased to have created or a world we might regret creating.
Words create worlds – a truth that is testified to right from the beginning of the Bible because when we go back to Genesis 1 we read the words, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’”, “And God said, ‘Let there be vegetation’”, “And God said, ‘Let there be human beings’” – and each time he said a word, a world was created.
We create worlds through our words.
It was Rudyard Kipling who said that: “Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind”. And he was right. We can do anything with words: we can encourage people, we can destroy people, we can support people, we can lead people in the wrong direction, we can encourage people, or we can undermine people, we can express our love to others or we can reveal something more ugly in our hearts.
Words are at the very heart of our relationship with other people. We rely on words to express ourselves and to receive from other people. Almost everything we do and everything we are revolves around words.
And because words are so vital to our existence, it’s perhaps not surprising that, in this passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus is called ‘the Word of God’. It is through Jesus, the Word of God that God speaks to us and creates a world of beauty, a world of salvation and truth.
It’s through Jesus, that illegitimate, refugee Jew, that frail, vulnerable baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, that misunderstood prophet, that most despised of men who ended up hanging on a cross – it’s through this Jesus that we are able to enjoy a created world in which we can have a relationship with God.
Without Jesus – the Word of God – the world of salvation and justice and truth simply would not exist.
If we want to make sense of our world, our lives, if we want to make sense of our hopes and joys, if we want to make sense of our disappointments and sufferings, we need to go back 2000 years to that stable in Bethlehem where the Word became a human being and dwelt among us.
If we do that – and we allow the Word to speak to us – what will we learn about God? What will we learn about the world that God’s Word creates for us? Just three brief ideas to reflect on this morning…
1. God wants a world where we are in a relationship with him
I remember quite a few years ago, in a different lifetime, when I worked for Waitrose as a Warehouse Manager and we got a new Marketing Director in the company. He was the type of guy who was at the top of the tree, the sort you wouldn’t expect to see from one year to the next. Well, this Director had different ideas. He wanted to spend time finding out how the company really worked so instead of spending all his time at Head Office and talking to the ‘men in suits’, he went out to the shops and spent time talking to the shop-floor workers and the warehousemen, and the weekend staff to find out what was really going on. We were all really surprised that he would want to get to know people like us but we were really grateful for his efforts and we had a lot of respect for him.
Sometimes, when it comes to our image of God, we might think of him as really distant and aloof. We may have an idea of a God who keeps his distance, who never wants to get involved too much, but would rather organise his universe from a distance. Not a Personal God but some sort of cosmic force – out there – who is to be feared or ignored.
But the truth is very different – and that truth is what the Christmas story is all about. Because the story of Bethlehem is the story of a God who wants to get to know us in a personal way and wants to have a loving relationship with each one of us. As that passage from John’s Gospel says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The Christmas Story is Good News for all of us – the Good News that God loves us and wants to share our lives.
None of us have earned the right to be loved by God: all of us do things wrong and let him down, let ourselves down and let others down. But that is the miracle of Christmas. That is the mystery and depth of the Christian message: that God loves us enough to have been born into humiliating circumstances in a stable in Bethlehem; that God loves us enough to have died on a Cross for us so we might enjoy fullness of life; that God loves us enough to come to us today – even this morning – despite our shortcomings and accept us as his children.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” – because God has something to communicate to us: his unending love.
2. God wants a world where we experience his comfort
For most of us, Christmas is a time to look forward to – a time to be with relatives and friends, a time when we open presents, a time for good food and lots of drink.
But there are many people here in Enfield who have been dreading Christmas. People who may have no relatives, people for whom Christmas is a reminder of the pain of grief and sense of loss they feel for those who have died, people who realise that this may be their last Christmas. For still others, this year there may be the threat of redundancy hanging over their heads or the anxiety of wondering where the next mortgage payment will come from.
It is likely that there are people here in this Church this morning who do not feel the joy of last year’s Christmas.
But it is to such as us for whom the Christmas message is particularly important. Because the God who came in human form to Bethlehem 2000 years ago came with a purpose: to comfort the lonely, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to bring peace to the fearful and the anxious.
The message of Christmas is that God stands especially close to all of us who may be sad or lonely or fearful or anxious, for whatever reason. If we turn to him and look to him to strengthen us, we can know the joy of Bethlehem as a reality in our own lives. As Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest.”
As we come to worship here this morning, the potential is there for us to meet with Jesus in a special way. We can allow God to heal us of the hurts and the pain and the fear and disappointment that so many of us carry. We can allow the God who loves us to comfort us in our troubles, whatever they may be.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Because our God wants a relationship with us. Because our God wants to comfort those in need.
3. Our God wants a world where we rise to the challenge
When we think about Christmas, we tend to have images of ‘Away in a manger’ and scenes of the Baby Jesus being held by a serene Blessed Virgin Mary. And, in a sense, that is part of Christmas – but a little bit ‘picture-postcard’ to be too close to the reality. Because there is a real challenge to each one us in the Christmas story too.
Through the Christmas story, God challenges each one of us to give our lives over to him and allow him to be our Lord and Saviour. That baby who was born in a manger 2000 years ago, that man Jesus who died on the Cross, that Word of God who was raised from the dead three days later, is alive and with us this morning by his Holy Spirit. And just as he came to live amongst us 2000 years ago, so by his Spirit he joins us today and challenges us to let him into our lives to give our lives over to him so that we might live for him.
And if we are prepared to do that, so our lives can be transformed. Those without hope can find hope for the future. Those who are sad can receive joy. Those who are sick can receive healing.
Christmas is a time of peace and joy – but it’s also a time of challenge. A challenge to find new life in the loving arms of the God who became a human being in Bethlehem all those years ago.
Words create worlds. Words that you and I have spoken or have written have created worlds. At this time of peace and goodwill, it is good for us to reflect on the worlds our words have created and either celebrate them or do what we can to make them right.
But we do not lose sight, this Christmas time, of the world that God has created for us through Jesus: the Word made flesh. A world of positive relationship, a world of comfort, a world of justice and peace and truth.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” A world has been created – and each one of us is invited to participate fully in God’s world of love.