Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

Wonder in the midst of the Ordinary

December 17, 2017
Martin Baker

  Wonder in the midst of the Ordinary      Martin Baker


This morning we hear a different Christmas Story. In this first chapter of John.

So no sheep, or angels or wise men or stables.

In fact if we had a Christmas pageant based on the Gospel of John you would need to imagine one child, speaking one line, in front of a curtain of black velvet: "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."

While that might save a lot of time and effort people might feel a little bit let down. Where’s the star? Bethlehem?

So today we do have a Christmas play one character saying much the same thing,— and its meant to be minimal and massive at the same time.

The one character is a man sent from God whose name is John. He is not called by any title like John the Baptist. He is just plain John, who will not even say that much when the religious authorities come to question him.

He spends most of his time telling people who he is not. I am not this. I am not that. I am not even worthy to untie his sandals. He is there for one purpose. To tell people that the light is coming into the world.


John 1:6-8, 19-28

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light....

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." 21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 26 John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stand one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing


Last week we were hearing about terrible fires travelling down the west coast of California.

One of Sandy’s oldest and dearest friends called Lois lives just north of San Diego. And we thought we should just check that she was okay. And thankfully she and her family are fine.

But I remembered a conversation I had with Lois a long time ago about the particular challenges of living where they did. It’s very dry and they make sure that the trees could catch light are kept a long way away from their house. And they have to have an emergency evacuation plan in case the winds and fires come up quickly. I talked with her a bit about this plan and the things, if it came down to it, she would grab if there was a fire coming. And do you know what she would take in such an emergency. Apart from her then young son the pets and her husband? Top of the list of inanimate objects would be the family photos. I mean they are relatively affluent people .They collect clocks and some art and they have nice bits and pieces so why would photos be their most precious things?


And I think I have to agree with Lois. In a panic wife kids probably then photo albums and some things from our history.  How many would agree with that order?  Roughly. You’d go for the shoes?  Golf clubs.

Thankfully we have one person in our household who’s quite good at putting together photo albums and it’s not me. And the kids can look at the photos even as young adults and remember the stories of what went with the photos. And Id don’t think it would matter if we brought these albums out every month or once a  year our children would still enjoy looking at the picture remembering the events and even filling in some of the forgotten details. The pictures are mostly ordinary pictures of kids riding a bike sitting in car at a family picnic up on stage as a bumble bee or a cloud or a tree. They are ordinary and yet they are in a way so important as well. They speak of important things of shared memories of moment of happiness of things that brought us together and speak about our importance to one another and our excitement at a small or big adventure or discovery.

Ordinary things and yet extraordinary special things existing beside each other. And if we went around his morning we would discover something we already know. The things that are so normal so common place, the things that we can all name: falling in love, being hurt, losing someone we love bearing children, are also extraordinary  things - they change our lives forever. And they happen all the time.

We don’t have to venture into the abnormal strange or supernatural. Those transformative things are present with us every day. 

Our scriptures this morning follow on from John’s Christmas story.  Four words that are the essence of our scriptures. O logos egeneto sarqs.  The word of God became flesh.  And dwelt among us.   The word didn’t become a credit card or a great building or a memory or even a powerful idea or fear or threat. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. The most extraordinary within the most ordinary. The most extraordinary in the midst of the most ordinary.

 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light....

John is not introduced by family name or place of origin. He is not principally a baptizer, a prophet, an exhorter, or even a messenger from God. John is a martyria, a witness, sent by God to testify to "the Word made flesh," "the Light" that no darkness has or will ever extinguish. The principal vocation of John in this Gospel then is to bear witness. In fact we are told thirty-three times in this Gospel that that is his job.

A fire threatens and we try to remember where we have left the photo albums.

A troubling thing happens, and we think that it might be time to start praying again.

But John is saying the light is here now, the word made flesh in our midst, and the darkness has never overcome it.

Remember, when we were looking at Genesis, creation being lifted out of the meaningless chaos, now we have the word becoming flesh and it’s unbelievable to the world around, even the familiar world.

One of the things you and I are being asked to do, and I think it is both difficult and kind of refreshing, is that inevitably we are going to have to struggle to comprehend what is going on here.

The story of Jesus birth,  this is what it looks like,  when the word becomes flesh.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can’t overcome, can’t comprehend it, though it tries its best. Jesus we hear speaks the truth, the plain and simple words

There is joy and wonder and celebration and there is also this strange, dark strand running through the gospel that stops us fully domesticating the Christmas story.  It is about God’ word, this light into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations, and the darkness not comprehending it.  It’s about God, God-as-a-little-child, God as friend of sinners, God as a betrayed outcast,  speaking the word of truth, and nobody knowing what he’s talking about.

These verses are special to those who haven’t got it all worked out. The good news is that along with the uncertainty and even rejection we read about ,  we  come across all sorts of people who hear and recieve Jesus’ words  ‘As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, who were born not of human will or flesh, but of God’.  ‘If you abide in my words, you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free’ (8.31f.).  ‘If anyone keeps my words, that person will never see death’ (8.51).  ‘

We can’t divide up those who can understand what Jesus is saying that those who can’t.  Just as we can’t divide up those who saw the birth of God among us from those who turned Mary and and Jospe away from the inn,  the crowds who one day proclaims Jesus saviour and then next supports his crucifixion. We’re part of all that.  By ourselves, we none of us can claim to be on one side or the other.  Jesus is born into a world where so many are  deaf and blind to him and what he’s saying; but some, we hear about, in all their uncertainty, allow his words to challenge, rescue, heal and transform them. 


Whatever place we are in now, God of creation, God of resurrection God of the Word which becomes flesh, flesh with us, - calls us to follow to hear to receive. As people, as the church here in Clevedon,  the extraordinary within the ordinary,  the aby the word here among us now  - so let us open ourselves to what God is saying now. AMEN