Welcome to the Family

1/2/2022

Message Title: Welcome to the Family
Theme: Christian 101
Season: 12 Days of Christmas
Main Text: John 1: 10-18
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14;
RCL Scripture: Jeremiah 31:7-14; ; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:(1-9), 10-18
Focus: Jesus is God incarnate who came to earth to adopt all.
Function: To recognize there isn’t a chosen race but the family of God.
Other Notes: Communion Sunday

SCRIPTURE READING: Ephesians 1:3-14  3Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. God revealed his hidden design[b] to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son. 10 This is what God planned for the climax of all times:[c] to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth. 11 We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design. 12 We are called to be an honor to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ. 13 You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honor of God’s glory.

INTRODUCTION: Saint Nicholas Traditions

  1. Audience Engagement:
    1. How old were you when you were first told about Santa Claus?
    2. What traditions did your family have revolving around Santa?
  2. Saint Nicholas of Myra
    1. Lived March 270 to December 343
    2. Greek/Christian Bishop
  3. Saint Nicholas Traditions (Dec 6th)
    1. Italy: “On St. Nicholas Eve in December, children in Molfetta, a city on the Adriatic Sea, put a plate on the table with a letter asking for gifts and promising to be good in the coming year. During the night, San Nicola fills most of the requests and piles the plates with chocolates, candies, and other good things.” (St Nicholas Center)
      1. “Because Nicholas is the patron saint of young women wanting to be married, young women still come to the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari on the 6th of December to put a note to the saint with three coins in a special box.”
    1. Romania: “On the night of December 5th, boots are cleaned and carefully polished to be put by the door or on the windowsill to wait for St. Nicholas’ (Sfantul Nicolae) visit. He is generous to adults as well as children, putting a little present in each boot—usually nuts, tangerines, sweets, chocolate and small useful items, like new socks. Larger gifts come at Christmas.” (St Nicholas Center)
    1. Holland: “After the Reformation, St. Nicholas was largely forgotten in Protestant Europe, although his memory was kept alive in Holland as Sinterklaas. There St. Nicholas is said to arrive on horseback on his feast day, dressed in a bishop’s red robe and mitre and accompanied by Black Peter (Zwarte Piet), variously described as a freed slave or a Moor, to help him distribute sweets and presents to good children or lumps of coalpotatoes, or switches to bad ones.” (Britannica)
      1. “Black face” is involved in the Dutch traditions and is a controversial topic today.
    1. Sources:
      1. https://www.stnicholascenter.org/around-the-world/customs
      2. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Nicholas-Day
      3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas_Day

TRANSITION: Today we prepare for a different holy day, Epiphany (January 6th). That’s right until January 6th we are still in Christmas season. So, if anyone wonders “when exactly do I take down my tree?” it’s January 6th. Then bake yourself a King Cake or give each other books and celebrate Jesus as King.

We’re going to talk about the One True King from the Gospel of John’s perspective this morning.

MAIN TEXT: John 1: 10-18 10The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. 11The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. 12But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, 13born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. 14The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15John testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’” 16From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace; 17as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known.

EXPLAINATION: Jesus is God incarnate who came to earth to adopt all.

  1. John’s Gospel opens very different from the other 3.
    1. Matthew and Luke both include some form of Christmas story.
    2. Mark just jumps into the story with John The Baptist announcing the coming Messiah.
    3. BUT John ties Jesus of Nazareth to the beginning of all things—Genesis 1:1
  2. John wants to emphasize that God isn’t doing something new, nor is this a new God. This is the same God with the same plan.
    1. Jesus is God dwelling with God’s people. The Incarnate God.
      1. Jesus isn’t the first tale of a deity that walks among the people. The Greeks worshipped Zeus and he was known to frolic among the female humans… getting himself into trouble.
    2. Up until this point—a deity’s interaction with humans was about amusement and usually to the detriment of humans.
      1. Jesus of Nazareth is different. He is the eternal God who created all things and intends to pour out his grace. This is a God who adopts the abandoned and calls them his own.
        1. Our status as children of God isn’t born from any human thing—its entirely a gift from God.
      2. I love the language “grace upon grace” here (WP). This language indicates the fullness of God’s love. This grace isn’t temporary, short lived, or conditional—it’s the fullest form of grace.

TRANSITION:

  1. Today, as we reflect on John 1, I want to officially say: “Welcome to the family!”
  2. Next week we will celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and discuss how baptism is one way to express that we’re joining the family.

INTERPRETATION: Jesus is God incarnate who came to earth to adopt all.

  1. Today is day 9 of the 12 days of Christmas.
    1. January 6th is Epiphany and marks the beginning of a new season…. But we’ll talk about that next week!
      1. Some Epiphany traditions include King Cake or giving each other books to symbolize the “wise” men who gave Jesus gifts.
  2. But no official action is required to receive God’s love or grace.
    1. Jesus called people to live transformed lives in light of the truth of Christ. BUT FIRST Jesus cared for people’s basic needs. Actions don’t earn you favor, God already gives it freely.
    2. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs & a lesson for the church about salvation
      1. Abraham Maslow formed a theory about the basic needs in each human.
      2. In order to develop the higher rungs of the pyramid, one must take care of the lower needs.
      3. The church has been known to flip this on it’s head when it comes to ministering to the poor, refugees, etc.
        1. Hear the gospel message, claim Jesus as your savior, and THEN we’ll feed you. (this is how the homeless shelter operates in my hometown).
        2. But the practice of Jesus wasn’t to give people drug tests or make them break up with their live in partners before they would get care. Jesus first cared for their physical needs.
          1. He healed. He fed. He cast out demons.
          2. THEN if the people stuck around, he called them to a different life.
            1. Woman at the well
            2. Adulterous woman
        3. The irony, is the bottom rungs aren’t always lacking. Sometimes people are drowning in excess stuff or cushioned by excess security and that needs balancing out before Jesus moves forward.
          1. i.e. Rich Man.

APPLICATION: To recognize there isn’t a chosen race but the family of God.

  1. As God’s followers—we aren’t to put prerequisites on grace. We are to pour out care and compassion and let God do the rest. As the person sticks around, a life can be transformed BUT God is the one guiding the transformation—not our own ideas.
  2. COMMUNION:  Let’s start off the year with a family meal!? I know with the holidays, there’s a good chance you’ve had your fill of these BUT this one isn’t just about food, it’s about a gift.
    1. No conditions. Jesus opens up the table to all. You’re invited into the family.
    2. The bread represents his body.
    3. The juice represents his blood.
    4. By his life, death, and resurrection we are all united into the family of God.

CONCLUSION: Christmas isn’t about Santa, Saint Nicolas, or Presents. It is about the actions God takes to heal creation and recall all of us to him.No matter what any one else may tell you—God invites you. God desires you. God calls you his own. Welcome to the family, may we continue to grow together.

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