Words and the Word

Creating and sustaining God, as we meditate upon your word to us in scripture may your Living Word once again dwell in us that we might shine as your light in the world. Amen.

“It’s only words,
and words are all I have,
to take your heart away.”

Thus are the words
sung
by one of my Mum’s favourite bands
from her youth:
the Bee Gees,
in the song appropriately
and simply
entitled
“Words”.

We in the Church,
by which I mean
the whole Church,
regardless of denomination,
are keen on words.
Whether it’s sermons,
or newsletter articles,
or reports
on matters
social,
financial,
political,
structural,
or theological,
we love words.

I don’t know about you
but I seem,
in my job,
to spend much time
searching
for the right
words.

Yet Christmas
reminds us
that at the heart of God’s
interaction
with the world
is not words,
but
a
Word.
A
Word
become
flesh
and living,
dwelling,
inhabiting
amongst us.

There are simply not enough
words
to describe a God
who is beyond all words.

But
this doesn’t matter,
for at Christmas
we are reminded
that God
doesn’t reach out,
and speak to our hearts,
in words,
but in a baby,
who shines
the glory of God
into the world
in one
who,
in the words of the hymn,
is
“little, weak, and helpless”.

Here,
in the manger,
is the One
who spoke
the whole universe
into being
unable to speak a word,
but only cry,
sleep,
feed,
and some other business
it’s probably too impolite to mention
in Church!

While I may spend my life
searching for the right words,
it is my experience
that what people
really desire
not just from the Church,
but from people generally,
is not words,
but presence.

That’s presence,
as in company,
someone alongside them
in times of joy
and sorrow,
warmth
and darkness,
life
and death.

In Christ,
God comes to us
as a present,
a gift,
that is presence.
The Word
becomes flesh
in the baby
called Jesus,
and lives among us.

Though,
actually,
“lives” really isn’t
the best translation.
Rather,
we might wish to go
old school,
and remember the word
in the old
yet familiar
King James:
“dwelt”.

Or maybe we want to go modern.
The writer of the Biblical paraphrase
known as
The Message,
gives that line of John’s
as
“moved into the neighbourhood”,
like one of those
community organisers,
someone who
arrives in the village,
and suddenly the village
is
a different place,
somehow more alive,
more together,
more like a village than it was.

While we humans
continue
to be obsessed
with words,
and more words,
assuming that they are
all we have,
our souls
cry out for something more,
something more tangible.

At Christmas
we encounter
in the stories we hear,
and see
and enact,
God’s answer
to that presence
we cry out for,
for which so often we
have
no words.

As we approach the Table tonight,
as we reach out our hands
for an encounter with God
in bread and wine,
we acknowledge
that God goes beyond
words,
and reaches out to us
with the tiny hand
of a newly born babe,
wrapped in swaddling bands,
and laid in a manger,
for there is no room at the inn.

In this world
dark as it sometimes seems,
where words seem endless
and often meaningless,
God’s glory shines
and goes beyond words
to bring us the presence of love
in the Word become flesh.
May we respond
by once more making room in our hearts
for that Living Word,
that his glory
might be more brightly reflected
in the world.

Amen.

Sermon preached at the Priory Church of St Germans, Cornwall at Midnight Mass 2014. The readings were Hebrews 1: 1-4 & John 1: 1-14.

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About MendipNomad

I'm a nomad both physically and denominationally, but I'll always call the Mendips home. Currently a Methodist Presbyter (Minister) in Cornwall. I love sport, film, tv, socialising, politics (both US and British), and, yes, being part of the church.
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