Homily for Sunday, December 30, 2018
First Sunday After Christmas Day
In my hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, is a school designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The hallways of this school are both beautiful and peculiar. Beautiful, because the colors, textures and light all work together to make these hallways beautiful places to be. (They were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, after all!) And these hallways are also peculiar. There’s almost not a straight hallway in the place; almost all the hallways are curved! Wright wanted people to be drawn forward to see what might be around the corner. For the most part the only windows in the hallways are narrow, horizontal windows high up at the ceiling line. Full length windows are in the classrooms, where Wright wanted the abundant light to attract people into the space. And the ceilings in the hallways are particularly low—maybe seven feet? Wright wanted people to move through the smaller, tighter-feeling spaces of hallways and into the rooms, where ceilings were higher and rooms felt more spacious. With their colors and textures—and their curves, low ceilings and high windows—these hallways are places at once beautiful places to linger, and at the same time they urge people onward.
Reading the opening 18 verses from John’s Gospel—which we heard today (and that we hear every year on the First Sunday after Christmas Day)—the effect is a little like walking through the hallways of that Frank Lloyd Wright-designed school: these verses are at once a beautiful place to be, and at the same time they urge us onward.
These lines are beautiful! The “colors” and “textures” of these verses are all drawn from the Old Testament. Here we see images from Genesis and creation: “In the beginning was the Word.” In these lines we find the Law: “The Law indeed was given through Moses.” We see the prophets: “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” In these opening lines we see the “colors” and “textures” of Hebrew monotheism, of the recurring Hebrew theme of prophets being called and rejected, and of the belief that one day all the world will be drawn to Israel. These lines are a veritable “symphony” of Hebrew theology.
Though these lines are beautiful and we may want to linger, these lines also urge us on. In these lines John speaks of “the true light, which enlightens everyone,” and who will someday draw all people to himself. Here John speaks of “being born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God”—something new is happening here, something that catches our attention. And—like a “curved hallway” kind of tease—John suggests that, if we allow ourselves to be drawn in and to read on, we might discover the one whom “no one has ever seen,” “God the only Son, who has made [God] known.”
These verses are at once a beautiful place to be, and at the same time they urge us on.
Today, the First Sunday after Christmas Day is a “curved hallway” kind of time. In this time we both savor where we are as we celebrate the Incarnation—with its beautiful readings, images, decorations and hymns—and… we also look forward to the Epiphany (on January 6). I wonder if, as we are “in-between,” we might allow ourselves to both enjoy the new life that God has given us in Christ and… at the same time—allow ourselves to get curious about what God might wish to show us, the open space into which God wishes to bring us. Our God is always birthing, always creating; always wanting to bring us to a place where God might more fully show us God’s glory. And our hearts are most satisfied when we allow ourselves to see, be drawn to and follow this Jesus, who both loves us where we are, and also beckons us on.