In the beginning….. of the movie Love Actually, the inspiration for the title of this sermon…is a montage of visuals from Heathrow Airport.…people greeting one another embracing, arms around bodies, kissing lips upon lips, touching, body upon body…..
and while we watch these glorious yet simple images that we often overlook, we hear a voice a voice like no other….Hugh Grant…
Who says…and I’ll skip the English accent….
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the Arrivals Gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed but I don't see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified, or newsworthy - but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.
Before the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate and revenge - they were all messages of love.
Stories of Christmas are also all around us, in movies, in print, in song, and in life, but perhaps never so much as in love.
Willa Cather writes a story titled “The Burglar’s Christmas.” It’s a story about William, who has failed at everything. Alone and desperately hungry in Chicago, out of contact with his parents for years, he comes to the realization on Christmas night that “he never had the essentials of success, only the superficial agility that is often mistaken for it.” The one option left to him, he concludes, is stealing.
Breaking into a house that night, he discovers that he has burglarized the home of his own parents—who, unbeknownst to him, had moved to Chicago. His mother recognizes him rummaging through her jewelry drawers in the dark. She moves in to kiss her wayward son. “Oh, my boy, we have waited so long for this!”
Frightened and shaken, he resists her embrace. “I wonder if you know how much you pardon?” he asks. “Much or little,” she says, “what does it matter? Have you wandered so far and paid such a bitter price for knowledge and not yet learned that love has nothing to do with pardon or forgiveness, that it only loves, and loves—and loves?”
That’s when she kissed him. It’s also when dawn began to break into his life.
Love only loves. And dawn breaks into his life.
That’s a beautifully simple and complicated thing to read. Simple in its sentiment. Complex in its understanding. And some days simple in it’s doing and on others, as hard as it can be.
John’s opening words this morning are not much different. They are on the one hand incredibly complex and profound. And on the other hand, they are as human and real as it gets.
In the beginning was only the word, the word was with God and the word was God, that is Jesus Christ, in whom all things came into being. Without
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
These are some of our most profound and cherished biblical writings. And at first they seem up here, over our heads, too big to grasp, and we, being human, like to grasp, to hold on to things, to embrace, arm around
John’s gospel knows this desire for intimacy… and John’s gospel is very intimate in
verse 14-And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
Simple. Love lives among us. In his doing, our doing. In his giving, our giving, in his living, our living. Love only loves. Simple.
verse 14 continued….…and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[a] full of grace and truth. Those words
Which brings us to the last verse we heard…
The word “grace” is used only four times in the Gospel of John (1:14, 16, 17) and only in the Prologue. Once the Word becomes flesh, grace is then incarnated in the rest of the Gospel. That is, the entirety of the Gospel will show what grace looks like, tastes like, smells like, sounds like, and feels like. This is Christmas preaching. For John, God in becoming flesh in Jesus has committed God’s self not only to
Christmas is intimacy
In Seminary, we used the two words to describe the experience of God. Transcendent, that is beyond our grasp…out there…..bigger than us.
And immanent, that is intimate, close, inner, the kind of God you can touch, feel, see, hear and taste.
I like both of these words. Because there are days when God alludes me, is beyond my understanding, especially when I need to trust that there is something happening I can’t understand, makes sense of, this world can be so full of anger, of fear, of despair, of hatred, we are so often called to trust in a God that is working in ways can't fully grasp.
And then there are days, or more appropriately moments, when I’m sure God, is sitting next to me…I’m sure you know this too…The God that shows up through our senses… through the birds that we see and hear, the food we smell and taste, the hands we touch….Flesh on flesh. And most intimately through the birth of a baby, an incarnation we can’t comprehend with our heads but experience fully with our lives.
Christmas is not over when the trees are put out to the curb. Christmas is just getting started for those who confess Jesus as God who has become flesh.
Each year, I have a line up of Christmas movies I like to watch. Love actually is one, The Bells of St Mary is another. Bing Crosby as Father O Malley and Ingrid Bergman and Sister Superior. I showed a clip last year during the time for the child in all of us, but this year I was struck by a different scene. This movie was made in 1945, which appears to me, though I didn’t live, then, seems to be a simpler time, when theology wasn’t so complicated and love just loved. And Father O Malley sits with Patsy, the young girl who has come to board at St Mary’s.
He’s helping patsy with her homework. She’s to write an essay on the five senses. Father O Malley says…
Let's see. Man is endowed with certain
powers which we call the five senses.
(back then you could say man instead of humanity or man and woman)
If he has common sense, he'll be happy
by using these powers within reason.
- You're happy you came to St Mary’s? (He asks Patsy.)
- Yes, Father. (She says)
To be glad you're alive.
because people are kind to you.
To be able to see nature's great wonders.
Flowers budding in spring
and leaves changing in autumn.
To be able to appreciate beautiful music.
To be conscious of the beauty
of tasting and feeling
only the things that are good for you.
To be aware of why you're here.
- I can go on and on.
- Why don't you, Father?
I think I will. (and then he breaks into song over the Piano, like only Bing can)
It’s lovely, it’s simple, Love only loves.
To be aware of why you’re here….For the Gospel of John begins at both, with Jesus Christ, and you as a child of this light which is born for you, just for you, intimately, and for this world transcendently… in love. Because Love only loves.
TO be born as a Child of the light means we walk and live our lives as one too. It means we might get as mushy and corny as a 1945 Bing Crosby movie, it means we might have moments of grand gesture in taking care of others, losing ourselves to a purpose beyond our own. Our God is both beyond us and within us. And love only loves.
― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
“When the human mind began to consider the next greatest mystery of life, the mystery of love,
Loves pure light came into the world on Christmas morning, and Love’s pure light came into the world on the day of your birth, for the life is the light of all people.
May this Christmas bring you out of the darkness of your womb and into being the light you were born to be. For the love of a God who loves you so intimately gave you his only son to hold and to carry and to live by. A God who loves you so transcendently that He calls on you to trust that there is love all around you, calling on you to love others as you are so loved…because….
Love only loves.