Sermon: Christmas 1 RCL A – “In the beginning…”

The podcast is available here.

The story of Adam and Eve was being carefully explained in the children’s Sunday School class. Following the story, the children were asked to draw some picture that would illustrate the story. Little Johnny was most interested and drew a picture of a car with three people in it. In the front seat, behind the wheel was a man and in the back seat, a man and a woman. The teacher was at a loss to understand how this illustrated the lesson of Adam and Eve, but little Johnny was prompt with his explanation, “Why, this is God driving Adam and Eve out of the garden!”

The story of Adam and Eve always conjures up thoughts of the creation and those famous first words, “In the beginning.” These three words appear several times throughout scripture, but I think we know them best from the prologue to St. John’s Gospel that we read this morning and also the opening words of book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

In the news we always get artist’s renditions of what something might look like and I’ve often wonder what their rendition of these opening words of Holy Scripture would be. In my mind, I see a black orb floating in black space, there are no stars or other planets, just this single orb, and it is covered in water. The water does not move. There is no life. It just sits, not stagnant, but still. I also see over the water a mist, a fog that is illuminated and it glows in a most holy and sacred light created of itself. The orb of course is earth, before God began his seven days of work, and the mist is the Spirit of God waiting in anticipation, hovering above the water.

And then as divine inspiration begins to churn, so do the heavens and the waters. Lights appear in the skies, creatures in the water. Land. Mountains. Rivers. Lakes. Trees. Animals. So creative is God in his holy work that not even a single snowflake on the highest peak is alike. Everything is divinely different, although some are similar, one polar bear is similar to another, but they are both unique in themselves.

And yet before all of this, “In the beginning” was also the Word, the Logos of God. The Logos of God is one of those very deep conversations, but we can simplify it by saying that Jesus is the incarnate Logos of God and so, in the beginning was Jesus and all that has been created was created through him.

In the New Testament we learn that you and I were also there. Not in bodily form, but in spirit – perhaps our soul. We know this because St. Paul teaches us, “God chose us in Jesus before the foundation of the world.” Before the foundation of the world God was, His Spirit was, Jesus was, and we were.

That’s the part that sort of trips up the brain. There was a movie in the eighties, The Seventh Sign, that popularized the idea of a place where the souls of every human being are held until they are born: the Guf. The movie was a bit off, but the idea of the Guf comes from Jewish mysticism.

In Jewish mysticism, the Chamber of Guf or body is also called the Hall of Souls, located in the Seventh Heaven. Every human soul is held to emanate from the Guf. In keeping with other Jewish legends that envision souls as bird-like, the Guf is sometimes described as a columbarium, or birdhouse. Folklore says sparrows can see the soul’s descent and this explains their joyous chirping. Is there any truth behind this teaching? Nothing biblical at all. It seems to be more a nice way to explain the unexplainable: how God could know us before the beginning of the world.

The point being, “In the beginning” when there was only God, we also existed in some form, whether as a thought of God or a soul, scripture is not clear, but that’s not the important part. The important part is that we may be similar to one another in body and form, but just as all the individual polar bears and snow flakes are unique, so are we. Therefore, before the beginning, God knew us individually and assigned each of us a unique role to play in His creation.

I was talking to my friend Heidi and she noted that, in spite of the fact that God knew who we were going to be and how we were going to turn out – the good, the bad, and the ugly – he still created us, because we, in small ways or great, were created to serve in his divine plan. What will that part be?

There is a plaque marking Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky. On it is recorded this scrap of conversation between two fellas: “Any news down ‘t the village, Ezry?” “Well, Squire McLain’s gone t’ Washington t’ see Madison swore in, and ol’ Spellman tells me this Bonaparte fella has captured most o’ Spain. What’s new out here, neighbor?” “Nuthin’ nuthin’ a’tall, ‘cept fer a new baby born t’ Tom Lincoln. Nothin’ ever happens out here.”

What will our part be? We just don’t know. It might seem that nothing ever happens to us, but we have a unique role to play in God’s divine plan. If you’re like me, you would probably feel more comfortable with this unique role if God would provide a road map or something to help us figure it out instead of allowing us to stumble around in the dark, but in truth, he has. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

A buddy was bike riding with some friends and they took a trek that led them through a very long train tunnel. The tunnel took a bend in the middle and so there was quite a bit of time when they could not see the beginning or the end of the tunnel. All they had to rely on were the small head lights on their bikes; however, even with them it was still almost pitch black. The tunnel seemed to absorb every ray of light. His comment to the rest of the group traveling with him, “There is never enough light in the tunnel when you can’t see the end.”

That seems to sum up nicely the role God has called each of us to play. We are not sure where it has been and even more uncertain as to where it is going, but the light of Christ shines just enough to overcome this present darkness that surrounds us and in that we can have faith in knowing that God is with us.

In the beginning you were with God even before he laid the foundations of the world. You are with him now even though you fear that you are sometimes lost. However, you will be with him forever because that is the ultimate goal of his divine plan.

Let us pray:
God of love, Father of all,
the darkness that covered the earth
has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh.
Make us a people of this light.
Make us faithful to your Word,
that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.


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