John 1: 1-14Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
December 24, 2015, Christmas Eve
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.”
Prayer: O holy God, we are glad to worship you, to welcome your Word coming into the world. Amen.
Have you heard this music yet? [cue Star Wars music] The much anticipated Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens came out a week ago. Anyone seen it yet? My daughter did. She text messaged me— “Dad! You HAVE to see Star Wars ASAP! It’s incredible!”
Months ago, we were seeing ads telling us this movie was coming. Stores were selling Star Wars paraphernalia way back in June, I think. Two months ago, honestly, there was so much hype that I thought to myself, “Did the movie come out and I missed it?” Nope. Just a lot of hype. But, as a result, when it did open Wednesday a week ago, it broke all kinds of box office records. That’s effective marketing… lots of advance prep work was done.
Well, we’ve been doing lots of advance prep work, too. We spent the entire season of Advent getting ready for tonight. We talked about receiving the promise of God from different sources, not from material things, but from spiritual things, not from sweet, cuddly ideas about Christmas, but from the refiner’s fire. We discussed God’s advance man, John the Baptist who came as a witness, testifying to the Word that was coming. We’ve been preparing for the Word of God to arrive.
So, I say tonight… after all that advance prep work, God’s Force is awakening! The true light, which enlightens everyone, the true word, the Word of God has come into the world! Christ, the Lord is born this night—born into our lives! Amen? Amen!
And, that’s right where I invite us to receive once again a different promise from the Word of God coming into the world. The Word of God is a transformative word. When God’s force awakens in us as Christ is born, we can receive a different promise that a spiritual awakening takes place within us.
I caught this story last week about a woman named Ann and her husband, who, a few years ago, were typical married boomers. Well-off financially, they had no time for church, and they each became busy in their respective lives. They had horses at the stables and enjoyed riding. And, both adored their children, and their youngest son, TJ, was a special favorite of his mother.
Now, even though the children were never sent to Sunday school and God was never mentioned in their home, one day TJ, out of the blue, said, “Mama, I love you more than anything in the world, except God. And I love God only a little bit more!”
Ann was surprised. “Why would he speak of God?” she wondered. Maybe because Christmas was but a week away, and he had heard about God’s Son being born in Christmas carols, on Christmas cards…wherever. In fact, TJ had bought her a Christmas gift that week. He had kept trying to give it to her before Christmas. Each time she had laughed and told him to put it away until Christmas Day.
Well, two days later, on an unusually mildDecember day, while he and his sister were horseback riding, T. J. crossed a snow-covered creek, fell through the partially frozen ice and died from his injuries. Ann was devastated. In her grief, she remembers crying out hateful words to God. Her world was
But, then she remembered the Christmas gift TJ tried to give her before Christmas. When she got home from the stables, she hurried upstairs to open it. Inside was a beautiful necklace with a cross. Ann said that she felt the Holy Spirit of Jesus reach to her wounded heart through TJ’s gift. And, she believes that the Spirit of Christ Jesus helped her through the tragedy.
Something within her awakened that Christmas. She was inspired to reach out to others rather than become lost in her own self. “Helping others helped me,” she said. Ann’s husband also was spiritually transformed, and together they became new in Christ. And, together they began a new ministry called TJ Ministries, helping to bring healing to other parents who have lost children through accidents. Yes, TJ Ministries is named after her son, but it’s also to emphasize how she’s made it through… “TJ” stands for “Through Jesus” (Diane M. Komp, A Window to Heaven: When Children See Life in Death (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1992), 81-83, http://www.homileticsonline.com/subscriber/illustration_search.asp?item_topic_id=1104, retrieved December 23, 2015).
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior tonight, as we acknowledge the Word of God coming into our world again; the question is, are you willing to receive this different promise of spiritual awakening? Are you ready to be moved by Christ, the Word, the Spirit, in the direction that it seeks to move you, the direction of a fuller relationship with it and with others? Are you ready to have God’s Force awakened in you this Christmas Eve?
Let us receive this promise, this holy gift. Amen.