Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fullness: a sermon

Year B Christmas 1
“Fullness” Dec 28, 2014
St. Thomas Church, Richmond, VA

(Scriptures used: Galatians 4:4-7, John 1:1-18)

In the Name of the God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Merry Christmas!  This is the fourth day of Christmas, and I do not know about you but I am stuffed.  Feasting leaves one in want of a salad.  Maybe a piece of fruit.  I feel full.

Some of you may remember that this time last year my family and I were in Germany, visiting my exchange family from high school.  They had always wanted to meet my girls, and they had always wanted us to come for Christmas.  Last year, we knew, would be the last Christmas I would probably have off ever again.  One of the costs of being a priest.  One of the phrases that I taught my girls before we went was, “Ich bin satt.”  When I first went to Germany, my teacher ground this phrase into our head.  “Do not say, ‘Ich bin voll.’  Say, ‘Ich bin satt.’”  While “Ich bin voll,” may translate word-wise as I am full, culturally speaking, “Ich bin voll,” means I am pregnant.  This is a very different rendering.  “Ich bin satt” means I am satisfied.  In other words, I cannot eat any more.  My exchange family was always pushing me to eat more, try this third dessert, here is another wurst.  Being 15 when I first went, and my daughters being 6 and 8, learning to say when is an important skill set.

Being full is an important thing to recognize.  That word is used twice in today’s lectionary readings, but as fullness.  The condition of being full.  We hear that word in the Galatians reading and John’s Gospel reading.  Because we did not read the Galatians passage because we were doing lessons and carols, let me include a few verses.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.

Paul here speaks to the fullness of time.  When the time was ripe.  When the time was complete.  When everything had been fulfilled.  I must be honest here, when Stephanie and I were first pondering the Episcopal church, I heard this phrase used in the liturgy.  It was used in Prayer B of the Eucharist, and it struck me, “Hey, these people know their Scriptures.”  This once used phrase in Galatians has always been one of my favorites.  The richness of the phrase always pleased me for some reason.  It’s like time was pregnant, and ready to be bursting forth.  Like that German phrase, “Ich bin voll.”  Prayer B looks to the fullness of time when Christ will come again.  Prayer C and Prayer D both use the phrase as it is used in Galatians.

Why did Christ come when he did, in the way that he did?  In the fullness of time, Christ came.  Everything was ready.  Everything was complete.

On Christmas day we made a feast.  I cooked a turkey.  Stephanie made pies and vegetables.  It took hours of work and preparation.  It took coordination for the items to all come out fully ready at close to the same time so we could sit down and eat.  In the items fullness, we found our fullness.  In the fullness of time Christ came.

In the John reading, fullness is used differently.  “16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  This prologue to John shows that his Gospel will be different.  Mark, the earliest written, starts with Jesus’ baptism.  Luke gives the backstory to John the Baptizer and the relationship to Jesus.  Matthew gives us a genealogy, showing where Jesus fits into the Jewish history and heritage.  But John is different.  He begins with the pre-incarnate cosmic Christ, the agent of creation and redemption since before time, at one with the Father, begotten, not made.  And from this place, we hear this message.  16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  From Jesus’ abundance, from his overflowing cup, we have received that Grace upon Grace.  Grace greater than we can imagine.  Grace beyond our comprehension.  Amazing, abundant Grace.

This first Sunday of Christmas, as we sit in the glow of family and the hearth, may we celebrate our fullness.  We have feasted in celebration of the newborn king.  May we remember the time past in its fullness that allowed Christ to come, and the time to come in its fullness when Christ will come again.  And may will be filled to the brim with his Grace upon Grace.  Come one, come all, revel in the Fullness.  Amen.

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Blessings, Rock