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Sermon for the Feast of St. John the Evangelist

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you

The Feast of St. John the Evangelist immediately recalls the wonderful words of Christmas Eve. “That which was from the beginning” is the Word which “was with God and was God” without which “was not anything made that was made.” Christ is the Word of God, the Divine Word and Son. It can only follow that “the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” about all the things which Jesus did. Such is the contemplative meaning of God with us.

Christ’s Incarnation does not exhaust the riches of God; rather it enfolds us in its mystery and truth which is always more and never less than what we can imagine and know. The witness of John the Evangelist in his Gospel and in his epistles contributes greatly to the understanding and development of Christian doctrine. The Christmas message of John emphasizes the divine reality of Christ as Word and the human reality of his embodiment in the flesh of our humanity; in short, the Word made flesh is real.

It is not fake news. The Epistle and the  Gospel make a claim to the truth of the witness not just by assertion but by argument. The argument is the idea of the Incarnation itself as being the Word, and Son, and Light of God come into the world in Christ, a light which is greater than the darkness of sin and evil. “We have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you” John tells us, again and tellingly in parenthesis, “that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” There is in this a sense of urgency and a sense of contemplative wonder.

This is the corrective to all our mistaken notions about God which reduce God to our agendas and concerns as if we have taken God captive to our desires. Such is the vanity of our attempt to absolutize the finite and so to deny the infinite. Christ’s Incarnation is about God and our humanity, each in their integrity and fullness, and yet one in Christ. The Christian mystery seen with the eyes of John is about God making us adequate to himself through himself becoming man in Jesus Christ. The Incarnate Son of God is the eternal Son of God. “There was not when he was not” (Athanasius). Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, as the Creed puts it does not mean that he ceases to be God. Such is the wonder and the mystery of God and of God with us that John the Evangelist so powerfully presents to us. Such is the great wonder of Christmas. It is always more and never less than what we can imagine and know.

These things have been written not only for our learning but as John says “that our joy may be full.” And what is that joy? Fellowship with one another and with God: “that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” This is the great joy of Christmas and the meaning of our fellowship with one another. It is grounded in our fellowship with God. Such is the Christmas message of love-in-contemplation.

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you

Fr. David Curry
Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Xmas 2019