GOD HAS MOVED INTO THE NEIGHBORHOOD

And the Word became flesh and lived among us. And, we have seen his glory, the glory of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth”. (John 1:14, NRSV)

I like this translation of that passage: “The Word was made flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one of a kind glory: Like Father, like son; generous inside and out; true from start and finish”. (John 1:14, Message)

Jesus in His time and now in our time has come to the earth to be a part of us. The word has come to us in flesh and blood and has come to live and make his home among us.

Neighborhood reminds us of where we grew up, the people we grew up around. Remember the street corners, the place where you used to play baseball or other games, the open fields, playgrounds, the streets that you used to kick cans on as you walked along. Your friends, loved ones, family picnics, block parties.

The word was made flesh and moved into your neighborhood, into El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Lakeside, Alpine, Spring Valley, San Diego, Lemon Grove, Mission Valley, Ramona, and all over San Diego County. The place where you live, the place where you work, the place you call home.

The Word of God, that creative power that called the universe into being. The Word is the source of all that is visible and emanates the totality of the world. The Gospel of John tells us that this cosmic Word became flesh and blood, and moved into our world, to our space, to live among us and to be with us.

Some people are impressed by the power of God that can bring something out of nothing, a Transcendent Force that knows the beginning and the end, The Creator of all that is everywhere at the same time, even at the parameters or outside the circles of everything we know or understand. It reminds me of the beginning phrase of my favorite final blessing of the Great Thanksgiving Eucharist: “And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God”.

I’m most impressed with the love of God, because it is the love of God that brings Jesus into our worldview. Love and compassion bring Jesus Christ next door, and into our homes. It is this love of God that brings us great joy as we celebrate the message of Christmas.

The secular trappings of the holiday season have faded away, and many of the Christmas trees are already on the curb of the road, or in the recycle bins or stored away for next year. Relatives have returned or will return soon to their distant homes, and many will soon return back to work and school.

We are still in the Twelve Days of Christmas—with 9 days to go before Epiphany, but still we sense the Light has come into the world, and it continues to give us joyful and peaceful thoughts. On the first Sunday after Christmas, we have the opportunity to look past the presents, the food and the commotion of “jingle bells” and to look more deeply in the gift that God has given to us.

What does the New Year bring? We wait in anticipation. Our hopes are up. The possibilities are endless. The narrative of the nativity is still a fond memory, and now after Christmas Day we are reminded that in Christ we have been given a part in Gods eternal plan, and we are swept up in a hymn of praise to the glory and wonder of it all.

The New Year speaks of so much more ahead for all of us. God is beginning to make clear to us the divine purpose in the world, and how He is to be part of it. God has not left us alone. We are not left without meaning and direction in our lives.

Genesis is not something that happened once, a long time ago. The Creator God continues to make all things new. The Word who became flesh still comes to us in the flesh.

God has moved into the neighborhood. What does that mean to you?

Jesus has moved into our neighborhood. What does that mean to us in practical and meaningful ways?

If someone you thought was important and was coming to live in your home, how would you respond? I think one of the first things I would do is clean up the house; try to set things in order and make the home more inviting and attractive. That’s what Advent is like. To anticipate with excitement and joy, to look forward to the coming of Christ, but to prepare our home, to make room, and to do everything we possibly can in order to welcome Jesus into our home. Amen?

Another thing is to throw out the welcome mat. Welcome Jesus. Welcome to my neighborhood. Welcome to my community. Welcome to my home. “Welcome to the place I work, welcome to my family, welcome to every part of my life, wherever I go, whatever I do, you are welcome to live with me, alongside of me and please make my life your home as well.”

Moving into the “hood” means where you are, wherever that may be, Jesus is there. Where is home? Well for me, I discovered a long time ago that my home is where my family is. My home is where Naomi lives. That’s my home. It’s not bound by a geographical location. My home is where my family is, and my home is where my home is in my local parish, and that parish is St. Alban’s. Jesus is where my heart is. Jesus is part of my home wherever that may be…

When God moves into our neighborhood there is a transformative thing that happens to us; that anticipation of the coming of Jesus into the world, and the joy that He has come, and the reality God now lives, and just as God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the coolness of the day, so God walks among us and is with us, and has moved into “our space.”

I remember riding the subways in NYC, especially when I was traveling as a VA Chaplain between hospitals in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, that the subways became my chapel. I looked forward to closing my eyes and entering silent times of meditation and prayer. Sometimes it was not so pleasant though in rush hour traffic, when people were packed into those cars like sardines, but even in that cramped subway car, I sensed the presence of Christ, and it gave me pause, even in that crowded subway car.

The transcendent presence of God, the cosmic presence of Christ has come into the world to live among us, to share our lives, our hopes and dreams, our faults and shortcomings, to pick us up when we fall. That’s the same kind of atmosphere that God wants in our church, an atmosphere of welcoming and accepting; forgiving and encouraging, a place that does not condemn when you make mistakes; the freedom to test your wings in ministry; to initiate change, giving each other space so we can learn and grow in Christ together without fear.” Perfect love casts out all fear”. (I John 4:18)

God has moved into the neighborhood.

“And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth”.

Amen

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