Year C Christmas 2 John 1
Light of the World
John 1:1-18

One of the striking features of the Gospel of John is the way it depicts the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The other gospels usually tell us stories about Jesus. Then, like the disciples, we are left to ask, "Who is this, that wind and sea obey him? Who is this who feeds the multitude on a couple of loaves and a few fish?" But in the Gospel of John, there's never a doubt who Jesus is, because he tells us. Usually he does so with a statement that begins with the words, "I am." Put him in a situation and he will clarify who he is and what he has come to do.

You can put him in the desert surrounded by people who are chronically unsatisfied, and Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).

You can put him in the midst of people who are confused, people who ask, "Who are you, Jesus? What makes you different from all the other gurus, rabbis, and religious leaders?" And Jesus says, "I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture" (10:7, 9). It is an act of self-definition.

You can put him at graveside, in the midst of grief-stricken people, and Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (11:25).

Or put him in the midst of people who feel disconnected by life's difficulties, and Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (15:5).

In the Gospel of John, in one situation after another, Jesus defines himself and says, "This is who I am...." In the eighth chapter, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (8:12). His words echo the opening words of the Fourth Gospel, where the writer defines the person and work of Jesus in terms of light. "What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people ... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (1:3-4, 9).

Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." This is the kind of thing we might expect to hear in these days after Christmas. Not long ago we gathered on Christmas Eve to hear the prophet Isaiah say, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." We don't know if old Isaiah had any idea who or what he was talking about, yet we celebrate Christmas as a festival of light. We string up twinkle lights on fir trees. We illumine our houses. We burn candles in the windows and plug in GE bulbs on the shrubbery. We burn up the kilowatts because Jesus Christ is born. In the bleak midwinter, why not shine a little light?...

  1. The Light of the World.
  2. The Light Comes into Darkness.

Fruitcakes, Fruit-Baskets and New Year’s Babies
Ephesians 1:3-14

How many of you received a fruitcake for Christmas?

How many of you actually ATE any fruitcake this Christmas?

[Try and have a fruitcake to lift up and maybe even pass out chunks, especially to the kids.]

I am one of a small minority, I know. I actually like fruitcake. Come on, it’s moist; it’s sweet; it’s nutty; it’s got a rich bouquet; it’s texture is unparalleled.

That said . . . .

There is no more maligned food than the good old fruitcake. What was once the queen of holiday feasts in the Old World has now become the Old Maid — the most "re-gifted" of all presents. As Lori Wagner, a pastor from Pennsylvania puts it, "Americans don't pass the buck; we pass the fruitcake."

Why DO we hate fruitcake SO!?

It is hard for us to grasp that it was not so long ago that fruits, nuts, and sweets of any kind were a luxury few could afford. Our supermarkets can now offer us fresh strawberries and blueberries, kiwis and bananas, in December. So a cake packed with dried and candied fruit is hardly special.

But before a global marketplace made everything available 24/7/365, the winter months were pretty barren of the sweet tastes and smells of succulent fruits. Fruitcakes were the delicious exception.

Look at this work of art: bursting with raisins, dates, and currents that were re-plumped with a liberal douse of brandy or rum [you can tell them that what you have in your hand is "Baptist fruitcake" if you like – alcohol free], and studded with the sugar-preserved stained glass window colors of candied cherries, citron, lemon, and orange.

Once upon a time the fruitcake was a once-a-year decadent delight, not the mass-produced mish mash of mystery bits that they are today.

But I think the real reason behind fruitcake failure is because secretly we all believe WE are fruitcakes.

We are the present nobody wants. At least that’s what we're afraid of. Being the present nobody wants... presents Leonard Sweet