Due to technical issues, only the benediction was recorded. Click here to watch: https://youtu.be/3xpW5ZC5-YQ
December 25, 2022*
By Pastor John Partridge
Isaiah 52:7-10 John 1:1-14
It is well known that Keanu Reeves, despite his stardom, lives an almost ordinary life. Despite living in an eight-million-dollar home in Hollywood Hills (that he bought for five million dollars in 2003), he is regularly seen riding his motorcycle to run errands, doing ordinary chores like grocery shopping himself and, when in New York, regularly rides the subway with everyone else, without bodyguards or entourage, rather than hiring a car service or a limousine. At the other end of the spectrum are the stars that are so overcome by their stardom, and so overwhelmed by their fans, that they rarely go out in public without trying to do so incognito, or in disguise.
We can all picture the old movie trope of traveling incognito by wearing a trench coat, floppy hat, and dark sunglasses, but what if more movie stars did what Keanu Reeves does? What if they traveled incognito, as themselves, and just disappeared into the crowd by setting aside their stardom and being ordinary?
The idea of traveling incognito is really at the core of the Christmas story. We begin this morning with the promise of the coming messiah found in Isaiah 52:7-10 where we hear these words:
7 How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.
Isaiah and the prophets told Israel, and the world, that the messiah would come to bring good news, peace, glory, grace, and truth. There was no reason for anyone to miss the arrival of something so well announced, anticipated, and expected. But that’s exactly what happened. In the gospel of John 1:1-14, we hear John’s telling of the story of Jesus’ arrival.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John says that the Word came, that word was with God, and that was word was indeed God in human flesh. Jesus, the Word, was with God at creation, was the agent of creation, and personally made everything that exists. He was the light of the world that God sent to shine light into the darkness. But before he came, just to make sure that no one missed it, God sent John the Baptist to announce his arrival. But despite centuries of prophecy telling of the Messiah that would come, despite the angel of God announcing his arrival and a heavenly host singing praises on the hillsides of Bethlehem, and despite the announcements of John proclaiming that the long-awaited messiah had arrived, the world still missed it. The savior and rescuer of the world was not incognito any more than you can say that a light in the darkness is hidden. And yet, the world that he created completely missed him.
But not everyone missed him. The creator of the universe came to earth and lived among mortal human beings. Some of them saw. They witnessed his light, his glory, his grace, and his truth. And those witnesses spent their lives telling others what they had seen. But today the world has the same problem. The rescuer of humanity still travels in broad daylight but incognito from the world. He is not hidden just as a light in the darkness is not hidden, and yet the world does not see him.
And so, as it was before, the mission of telling the world falls to his witnesses. We who have witnessed his grace, his glory, his gentleness, compassion, care, and love are still called to tell the world what we have seen and heard. Every day, Jesus lives among us. He is not incognito. He should not be missed by the world around us. Our mission is the same as those who witnessed his birth and his life two thousand years ago, to spend our lives telling others what we have seen.
Merry Christmas everyone.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™