1st Sunday after Christmas, December 30, 2012. (Text: John 1:1-18)
We’ve all heard the expression, “Christmas is for kids.” It really has a lot of truth to it. The whole paraphernalia of the holiday—toys, Santa, stockings hung by the chimney with care—is child-oriented. Adults enjoy watching the kids have fun, from the time they help put ornaments on the tree until the crack of dawn on Christmas Day when they wake everybody else to tell them Santa has come.
We older people always enjoy Christmas more when little ones are on the scene. If there’s nobody in the house but adults, it’s just not as much fun. When we have to celebrate Christmas without “little people,” it feels like something is missing.
Today’s Scriptures fit with this sense of Christmas being a holiday especially “for kids.” They talk about God’s purpose in sending his Son into our world. And that purpose, according to the gospel, was that we become god’s children, be adopted into his family, and know God as our own “Abba,” our own beloved Father.
We just heard one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible, the beginning of John’s gospel. It talks about “the Word made flesh,” Jesus. It says “he came to his own home, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed on his name, he gave power to become children of God.”
Someone long ago said Christ became what we are [that is, a flesh and blood human being] so that we might become what he is [that is, children of God].
If it’s true that “Christmas is for kids” (meaning “God’s kids”) let’s think a bit about what children are like. In a healthy family, children have an assured, secure and protected status. They belong. They’re special. They’re the heirs, the future of the family—bearers of the hopes and dreams of their parents. AND (this is important): children are entitled to claim their parents’ attention.
Some facts about ordinary family life can help us understand how God wants us to relate to him as his children. Consider some examples . . .
First, children are always free to ask mom or dad for anything they want. Anybody who has children remembers well what Christmas morning was like when your kids were very small. Think back. It’s 6 a.m. on December 25 and your five-year-old daughter has already emptied her Christmas stocking and eaten a lollipop, a bag of M&M’s, a candy cane, and one of those little boxes of raisins—all before you’ve had a cup of coffee. But it’s perfectly o.k. for her to ask if she can now have Cocoa-Puffs for breakfast. You were probably the sort of parent who said “No way! Eggs and bacon for you, now, young lady. No more sweets.” But your little one was free to ask for anything she wanted. —Not just on Christmas morning, but anytime.
In the same way, we children of God may ask God for whatever we need, whatever we even just want. It’s never wrong to ask. God’s answer might be “No, that wouldn’t be good for you.” But we’re always free to ask.
Here’s a second example from family life. It’s normal and expected for children to address their parents with affectionate names. We’re never “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Captain” or “Doctor” to our children, are we? My children called me “Poppy,” when they were little, and they still call me that. It’s my name to them. When the oldest two were pre-schoolers, the other little kids in our church also called me “Poppy.” They learned my name from my own children. But I didn’t mind; I liked it. I felt closer to them, and I think they felt closer to me.
The Bible says Jesus called God Abba--which is what he called Joseph, too—because Abba means the same thing as “Daddy” in English. And he taught his disciples to use that very personal name for our heavenly Father. Jesus teaches us to approach God with the same loving intimacy and complete freedom that he himself does.
And consider this aspect of the parent-child relationship. It’s always o.k. for children to tell their parents how they feel—whether they’re happy, sad, glad, or mad. Mom and dad want to know. Good parents delight to hear anything their children tell them. Anything! Good parents want to listen. It’s important for us parents to listen to our children, and that’s always true—even when they’re grown up and have children of their own. That’s how we come to know our children, I mean really know them.
So it is that when we pray, God wants us to open our hearts to him. Just as it’s o.k. to ask God for anything, so it’s equally permissible—even essential—for us to tell God how we’re feeling: not just when we’re happy and grateful, but also when we’re angry or confused. It isn’t that God doesn’t already know; but he wants to hear it from us.
One last example from family life: Good parents expect their little children to be “beginners” at everything. They’re learning and experimenting, testing the limits, asking questions. They’re not expected to act like grown-ups yet. They have a lot of learning still to do. Loving parents put up with childish behavior; and the children of loving parents instinctively trust those parents, take their hands and go wherever their parents lead them. Jesus said, “Unless you become as little children, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Today’s gospel tells us that to all who receive Jesus, who believe on his name, he gives power to become the children of God, the family of God. “He became what we are, so that we might become what he is”—not just in some hazy, far-off future, but now. We don’t need to wait for some magical “Christmas-yet-to-be” in order to claim the rights and privileges belonging to us as children of God.
So, what special kind of behavior do you think marks us as children of God? —It’s certainly not moral perfection. After all, we’re children; we’re still learning, we’re still “on the way” to what we’ll ultimately become. We’re “works in progress,” whether we’re five or seventy-five. It’s not moral perfection that marks us as children of God.
So, what does demonstrate that we’re God’s children? Just one simple thing: our recognition of the relationship--our readiness to know and love and claim God as our own dear “Abba.” And remember that in God’s eyes you and I are very young children, just toddlers, even though we may be gray-headed. After all, we’re barely even the equivalent of pre-schoolers on the time scale of eternity!
John says the Word of God became flesh so that we might become children of God, and there’s no better time than Christmas-time to celebrate our childhood.
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