In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Ghost.
Our news media is filled with eyewitness accounts. News stories about tragic events are enhanced when one can stand in front of the camera, say “I was there,” and proceed to tell the story with all its gory details. Social networks are abuzz with pictures and stories, status updates and “Tweets.” If you were unable to be an eyewitness, there is a remedy for that.
Today the Church celebrates an eyewitness. We give thanks to God for St. John, an Apostle, a Bishop, and the writer of a Gospel and three Epistles, plus the New Testament’s prophetic book, the book of Revelation. We know St. John by the moniker given him in his Gospel, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” Tradition tells us that he was the youngest of Our Lord’s disciples, spending his formative years being shaped by Jesus Christ. We know that he lived well into old age and did not meet a martyr’s death as did many of his fellow apostles. In his life, he was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, witnessing His Transfiguration and attending Him while He prayed in Gethsemane. At Jesus’ crucifixion he was one of the few to remain and was given charge over Mary, the mother of Our Lord. In his old age he is given what few men have received: a preview of the end of the world and a glimpse into the new heaven and earth.
All these things he sees. All these things he records by the Holy Spirit in his Gospel, his Epistles, and prophesy. We know that his testimony is true because to him was given the joyous gift of hearing and seeing Jesus, touching Him, having fellowship with him. These things he shares with us so that our joy may be full because we, like him, have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Yet as a faithful Pastor, Apostle, and Evangelist, John must also preach the Law because he himself is a sinful man, and those to whom he writes and preaches are sinners. He must preach why
Jesus Christ met death. He explains why in the prologue of his Gospel: “[Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” We are included in this declaration of judgment. In the hardness of our own hearts we have turned from Jesus Christ and to our own selves. When we make this turn in, we are sacrificing to our own Baals, burning incense to the carved images of our sin, the gods which we have fashioned for ourselves. We delude ourselves into thinking that we are somehow without sin. We deceive ourselves and in this way do not have fellowship with Christ, the Light of the World, but rather dwell in our self-made darkness.
But into this darkness shines the true Light, Jesus Christ. This Light, by His holiness, illuminates our sin. With the death of our sin brought into the light, we fall to our knees in confession. Desiring mercy and life we confess our sin and receive our God’s full forgiveness. John’s Epistle and Gospel give us this sure confidence. He promises that when we make confession, our sins are forgiven and that when the Pastor who hears this confession absolves us it is an absolution as sure and valid as if Christ Himself had spoken it, as He told His disciples: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.”
To sustain you in this life you are given God’s Word, given by John and all the other faithful men who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. This cloud of witnesses has given to you what they have heard, what they have seen with their eyes, what they have looked upon, what their hands have handled. They have given this to you in the Holy Scriptures, written so they may be read and preached to you so faith might be created.
To sustain and strengthen this faith Christ has given to His Church that which the Pastor handles with his hands, that which you see with your eyes, that which you receive when he puts into your mouth Christ’s own Body and Blood. This your God gives to you when He stoops and feeds you, to manifest Himself to you. This He does to cause the greatest fellowship possible, when He fills you with Himself so that your joy may be complete.
Your joy will reach its full completion when Jesus returns as Judge, to gather His children to Himself. Dear Christian “[you] may have boldness in the day of judgment” because of the “manner of love the Father has bestowed on [you], that [you] should be called [child] of God.” He is your dear Father because you are made His dear child in Baptism. By water and Word you are adopted into the Father’s family, made a sure and certain heir of eternal life. Because of this, the new heavens and earth are yours. All that which John saw and wrote concerning paradise will be yours when you are brought to your true home at your last day.
We rejoice this day as we continue our Christmas celebration, thanking God for the gift of His Son, born on earth to save us. Amid this celebration of the birth of our Redemption, we thank God for the faithful St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, who recorded our Lord’s life, who has written these things so that we may believe, and that by believing we may have life in Jesus’ Name. We rejoice because this eyewitness did more than give “Tweets” or news stories, but recorded the life of the One to whom we shall go, and in our hearing of those words we are incorporated into that life eternally, for Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
1 John 1:1-10
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).