Magic and Miracle
Christmas Eve John 1:1-18
This is the
Christmas story according to St. John.
“In the beginning of time, there was the mind of the
universe, and the mind of the universe was with God, and the mind of
the universe was God. Everything
that was made was made by the mind of the universe. Life and light were created by this mind.
In the fullness of time, when the time was just right, the
mind of the universe became a human being, and he was full… he was
absolutely full of the grace and truth of God. And we actually saw it.
We gazed at the glorious presence of the only begotten Son of
the Father, and from his fullness, we have all received
grace upon grace upon grace.”
This is the Christmas story according to St. John the Divine.
It is almost perfect. It is almost too perfect.
There is a mystic spell to Christmas Eve, and as we came into
the sanctuary tonight, we may have experienced this perfection, this
mystic spell. The
sounds of the harp remind us of the sounds of the angels.
The hay in the manger reminds us of the hay in the stable. It
is as beautiful as if God came down the stairway of the stars with a
baby in his arms and came into our sanctuary and whispered:
Take my child into your arms.
Hold him. Look
at him. A baby. Your
baby. Let the child’s
Spirit fill your heart with grace.” … It is almost
A poet said:
“There is a hush that comes with Christmas, life’s hurry
and its cares seem far away. And
something in the silence seems to weave a mood akin to sadness, and
yet we say, ‘A merry Christmas’ to all we meet.
And all the while inside, we feel the mystic spell as
if the Christ child came on noiseless feet, with something old yet
ever new to tell. The
eyes grow misty and yet they shed no tear, and those we have lost
seem somehow near.”
It is almost
perfect, this mystic spell of Christmas.
To experience the beauty of Christmas Eve is to experience a
taste of the fullness of God, for Christmas has become a symbol.
Christmas Eve is not merely Christmas Eve.
It is no longer merely a religious holiday. Christmas Eve
itself has become a symbol for our lives of the way God intended the
world to be. Christmas
symbolizes our need for sanity in a crazy mixed up world of hate and
They sat at the
dinner table and they looked at each other and they said:
“Please, Honey, let’s not fight tonight.
Let’s not bring up the same old arguments, the same old
wounds. Let’s have
peace at least for tonight for the children.”
didn’t say it but communicated it anyway:
“Let’s not pick at each other tonight.
Let’s not gnaw at each other.
For a moment tonight, let’s have the dinner table be
officer commanded: “Do not fire the artillery tonight. There will be no bombing tonight. There will be no fighting tonight.” There for a moment during World War I and II, the nations
stopped war for a moment during this mystic spell.
On the radio this
afternoon, the radio commentator said that there won’t be much
news today. News is
based on conflict, and there wasn’t that much conflict going on
that is news worthy.
It is almost perfect.
It is almost the way that God intended it to be, and to
experience the peace of Christmas Eve is almost to experience the
fullness of Christmas.
Today, someone left
a turkey near the door of the church.
I don’t know where it came from, but the same thing
happened yesterday. There
will be three or four turkeys left at church to give away before
Christmas Eve. That
won’t happen next week.
It didn’t happen last week.
It happened this week.
There is something about this mystic spell when people are
more generous that at other times of year.
The other day, a
man came up and gave the church a thousand dollars to give away to
the poor and needy, and someone gave $500 and another gave $100 and
somebody gave $50 and another gave $5, all for the needy.
It won’t happen next week, and it didn’t happen last
week and it did happen this week and today.
For a moment, it was almost perfect.
To experience the generosity of Christmas is almost to
experience the fullness of God’s love and God’s intention for
The mystic spell of
Christmas Eve can be found between a husband and wife at home,
between children at the dinner table, between warring nations locked
in conflict, between the rich and the poor.
These are all signs of peace, symbols of harmony, and these
symbols of peace and harmony and generosity point us still farther
to the deepest spiritual reality there is…. Let me explain.
At our house, we
play a game at Easter time, and it is a game that you may play at
your house too. You put
the Easter eggs out in the yard, and as the children get closer to
the hidden Easter eggs and Easter candy, we parents shout:
“Warmer, warmer, warmer”…or “hot, hot, hot”…as
they get so very close to the prize. As they wander away from the prize, we shout “no, no,
no…cooler, cooler, cooler…oh, you are getting warmer
again…It’s getting warmer, warmer, hotter, hotter.”
So it is on Christmas Eve:
as you get closer and closer to Christmas Eve, you are
getting warmer and warmer and warmer and hotter and hotter and
hotter and finally: you
found it!!! You found
the prize.” The prize
is God’s peace, God’s harmony, God’s generosity,
God’s design of the world in the way it is supposed to be.
Christmas has become a symbol, a sign of the world the way
that God intended it to be. It is no longer merely a religious
holiday. I believe that
is why so many people flock to the sanctuaries on this sacred night.
If you experience
the mystic spell of the worship on Christmas Eve, you experience a
symbol, a sign, a revealing of God’s destiny of God’s peace
within your home, God’s peace within your heart, God’s peace
between nations, God’s peace between economic classes and
religions. On Christmas
Eve, you are getting closer and closer and closer, hotter and
hotter, to the prize, to the fullness of the meaning of Christmas.
What is the
fullness of Christmas? When the time is right, when there is fullness of time in
your life, when it is the good time, the right time, the appropriate
time, God comes down the stairway of the stars with a baby in his
arms and places the baby into your hands, and you carefully,
carefully examine that baby. Miraculously,
the Spirit of that child may come into your heart in a new way.
That is the fullness of Christmas.
For within your heart, you feel and know and experience the
pulsating presence of God. You
are filled with grace upon grace upon grace.
You are filled with the truth of God and his great love for
you and the whole world, freely given, like the rain and sunshine
and the radiant beauty of Christmas Eve, all freely given to you.
That is what the fullness of Christmas is all about;
to have the Christ child born in your heart whereby you and I
experience and personally know the fullness of God’s grace and
truth. Not the halfness
nor quarterness nor a little bit.
But that you and I would know the FULLNES of God’s grace,
living within our hearts.
St. John the Divine
sang his particular Christmas song in his gospel:
“The mind of the universe became a human being, and from
his fullness, we all have received grace upon grace upon grace.”
What is this grace,
this fullness of grace that St. John the Divine talks about in his
particular Christmas story?
Jesus was nailed to
cross. They spit at him
and whipped him and called him all kinds of names.
Amazingly, in the middle of all of this ugliness, violence
and brutality to him, he said: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t comprehend what
they are doing.” Grace
is the gentle, forgiving, love of Christ within you.
It is the forgiveness of Christ for any and all
situations, the pulsating presence of God, beating within your
Recently, I was on
an airplane, and I walked back to the back of the airplane, and
there was an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for years.
What a surprise. We flew on that airplane for nearly four
hours, and at the end of that four hours, the flight attendant said:
“You talk more that two little old grandmas.”
We laughed. He
told me about their life in Alaska, about the beauty of the sunrises
on a cold winter morning and he concluded, “Ed, my life now is so
wonderful and beautiful that I experience the fullness of God. You
remember that one of my children was having so much trouble with
drugs, like so many families. I
have found a new affectionate love and forgiveness for my daughter,
but more important than that, she has found forgiveness for me. It
is a miracle that God worked in me, in my heart.”
That is the grace
of God. It is to be
filled with the fullness of forgiveness, to be filled with the
fullness of God’s grace living inside of you. When grace, the fullness of God’s grace lives inside of
you, the peace of God follows after.
Without that grace
living inside of you, you cannot love that person you divorced last
year. Without that
grace living inside of you, you cannot love that kid of yours who
has gone to hell and back again.
Without God’s grace, you cannot fully love a rebellious
Without that grace
living inside of you, it is hard to love that parent of yours who
makes you so angry, the parent who has become crippled and old and
is getting ready to die and is pushing you to your outer limits of
that grace, you cannot let your imperfect mother or father die. Without that grace, you cannot finally let go.
Without that grace
living inside of you, you cannot begin to love yourself, with all
your imperfections and shortcomings and flaws and failures.
What all human
beings need is what Christ came to give. What all human beings need
is the Mind behind the universe to live in our hearts.
What all human beings need is…grace, upon grace, upon
grace, living within side of us. What God wants to give to us this
Christmas is his baby, the Spirit of the Christ child, born into our
hearts, who gives us grace after grace after grace.
hearts are not filled with grace upon grace upon grace.
Unfortunately, all too often, our hearts are filled with
deepest sorrow about losses, losses through death and marriage and
youth, losses of our home, friends, dreams and hopes. Our hearts
become trapped by anger, frustration, and edginess and we don’t
even know why. Our
hearts are saddened by depression, and we are not even sure where it
came from. Our hearts
are confused by the complexity of the future.
Therefore, our hearts need…my heart needs…your heart
needs…what our hearts need from birth until death is a never
ending supply of grace upon grace upon grace.
The Bible promises that from his fullness, from the fullness
of Jesus Christ, he has promised to give us grace upon grace.
To experience the
mystic spell of Christmas is almost to experience the
fullness of Christmas. To
experience love within your home is almost to experience it.
To experience peace within your family and friendships is almost
to experience it. To
experience peace between nations and races is almost to
experience it. To
experience generosity between rich and poor is almost to
experience it. These
are all symbols that point to the deepest spiritual reality of all,
which is grace upon grace upon grace, living in our heart and not as
a theological fantasy.
When the time is
right, when there is fullness of time in your life, when the time is
right for you, God will come down the stairway of the stars and
place his child, his Spirit, in your heart.
When God’s child and Spirit are born in your heart, you and
I too will experience grace upon grace upon grace.
That is the
fullness of Christmas. That experience is so wonderful, that way of living and
loving. That is why Christmas Eve is no longer just a religious
holiday but Christmas has become a symbol, a sign of the way God has
intended the world to be. Amen.