Christmas 1A’22
1 January 2023
John 1.1-5
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

What has come into being in Christ was Life, and the life was the light of All people; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


It was a hot Sunday morning in August and the AC didn’t seem to be working very well, so many of the parishioners were using their bulletins as fans to try and cool off. An eight-year-old precocious boy named ‘Johnny’ whispered to his mother how hot he was.  About that time, the priest began his sermon with a reading from the book of First Samuel. Before reading he said, “today’s passage tells us what God does to his enemies!” Then he began, “And it was so, that after the Philistines had carried the Ark of the covenant, the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had ‘emerods’ in the secret parts.” The congregation instantly and in unison stopped fanning themselves and collectively gasped. Just to clarify in that particular passage ‘emerods’ is spelled e-m-e-r-o-d-s! Eight-year-old Johnny had heard his parents talking about ‘hemorrhoids’ once but wasn’t exactly sure what they were. He knew that they had something to do with the bathroom, which is at the top of the list for an 8-year old’s humor. He tried to place his hand over his mouth but he was too late and his laugh pierced the holy silence. His mother whispered his name sternly while firmly squeezing his hand in an attempt to silence him, then Johnny blurted out, “But Mom, he said Hemorrhoids!”  and subdued snickers and chuckles began to softly ripple across the congregation.[1] That Sunday Johnny learned two ‘truths’, 1) God will smite his enemies with Hemorrhoids and 2) Never laugh in church! The first so-called truth has hopefully been disproven by our own life experience and the second we just violated by laughing.


Religion can certainly get it wrong. The writer G.K. Chesterton once noted that, “Life is serious all the time, but living cannot be…In anything important (such as birth, death, and religion) you must have mirth, or you will have madness.” I think a humorless religion certainly qualifies as madness.


This being the first of January we are in the midst of another madness – New Year’s Resolutions. As the original ‘Wildman’ Oscar Wilde reportedly said, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” As we all know business will be booming at practically every fitness center and health club across the country – for the next three weeks, followed by a marked decline in business!  Perhaps reality is a bit closer to Jack Nicholson’s honesty, “It’s that time of year for all the “New Year – New Me” BS. I’d like to assure everyone that (and I’ll use the PG version) I will remain the same loveable [orifice] that I’ve always been.” Eventually we live long enough to realize that the first day of the year is not magical, that transformation is a long and difficult road filled with victories and defeats both great and small.


A part of our difficulties might just clear up if we would reconsider the lens we are looking at life through. If you were to ask many different types of Christians how to better see the world and one another their answer might be “well through the word of God.” That’s not a bad answer, in fact it’s a pretty good one, but it’s also where the trouble can start. First let’s think for a minute how we spell “the word/Word of God.” Do we spell “word” with a lower case “w” or “Word” with an upper case “W.” That will make a huge difference in our interpretation of the world and of each other. In John’s Gospel we get the right answer: In the beginning was the Word, (upper case W) and the Word (upper case W), and the Word (upper case W) was God.” John is telling us that the Word of God is not a book but a person – Jesus! The Eternal Word is not a “what” but a “who!” That great 20th cen. theologian, Karl Rahner put it this way: “When we say, ‘It is Christmas,’ we mean that God has spoken into the world his last, his deepest, his most beautiful word in the incarnate (upper case W) Word.”[2] This is not to be disrespectful of the Bible, it is simply to say the words in the book are not infallible, it is Jesus who is infallible and who is the Incarnate Word. Now I should state the obvious that Jesus does not address every topic and solve all the conundrums we will face in 2023. However, through his words and deeds we see the very Heart of God! While we may find scriptures that will give us counsel on many important matters it is ultimately thorough the life of Christ that we must judge and decide how we will live our lives, and how to view our neighbor.


Rather than resolutions, perhaps a better way to start the year is with acceptance, acceptance of ourselves, acceptance of others {warts and all}, and acceptance of life on life’s terms, and all seen through the lens of The Eternal Word -Jesus Christ. And finally, to commit ourselves to life-long learning and transformation through a relationship with Christ. I’d like to leave you with a blessing for 2023 that’s hard to improve on:


          The Lord bless you and keep you;

           the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

          the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.[3]



[1] Sparks, Susan, the Rev., Laugh Your Way to Grace (pp.31-2

[2] Rahner, Karl in The Glenstal Book of Readings for the Seasons (Liturgical Press: Collegeville, Minnesota, 2008) p.74

[3] From Numbers 6.22-27