The text is from the prologue of St. John’s gospel, two verses beyond what we have heard so far – John 1:16, “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
By now the presents have all been unwrapped and the stockings emptied and maybe the boxes and paper and ribbons have been cleaned up – and maybe not.
So, what’d you get for Christmas? I got a new sweater. It’s always nice to get a new sweater. So, what’d you get for Christmas?
And, what did your Father get you this Christmas? ‘Oh, ‘a Savior who is Christ the Lord.’ Me too.
But He gave me that last year? Why does He give me the same gift every year?
BECAUSE IT’S EXACTLY WHAT I NEED.
And sometimes I can hardly believe that that’s really MY NAME on the gift: “From Your Heavenly Father. To Paul. ‘A Savior who is Christ the Lord.’
And He keeps giving me His Son, saying, ‘take it, He’s for you, really.’ He keeps putting His Son into my hands, saying, ‘take Him. Take His body. Take His blood. It’s just what you need.’
And I’m happy to have Him, really I am. But sometimes, in fact more than just sometimes, there’s so much other stuff going on in my life and so much stuff going on around me that I hardly notice the gift that my Father has given me. And I put it aside, and it just sits there in some far away corner of my life.
And sometimes it’s not just all the stuff going on in my life and all the stuff going on around me, but it’s the stuff that’s NOT going on in my life and that is NOT going on around me. There’s a couple of things that I’d really, really like to have, frankly, things that I think are more urgent and necessary right now than “a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
Did I really just say that? I must be crazy.
Did I really just say that although I really, really do appreciate my Father’s gift to me, the fact is I’ve got more pressing needs in my big, huge, all-absorbing life than “a Savior who is Christ the Lord”?
“For God so loved the world that He gave ME His only-begotten Son” on Christmas. That’s nice, but what I was really hoping for was a true romance or a better job or a friend or a new car, or….you fill in the empty blanks in your life.
But it’s good that I’ve got Jesus tucked away in some corner of my life. He’ll help me cope with all that I didn’t get for Christmas this year.”
Truth is, we really don’t have any idea just how MUCH we got for Christmas this year do we? ‘FROM HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED…” “From the fullness,” OF HIM WHO FILLS ALL THINGS, we have received.
What I really wanted was “FROM THIS WORLD’S EMPTINESS’. But my Father gave me “FROM HIS FULLNESS.”
So, how much is that, anyway? It’s more than I can comprehend. But I can comprehend this much. I can’t fit HIS FULNESS into some corner of my life. My life is too small and HIS FULLNESS is too big.
“He is the radiance of the glory of God,” and we are the radiance of sin and death. But ‘OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED.’
“He is the exact imprint of the nature of God,” and we are the exact imprint of the nature of Adam and Eve. But ‘OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED.’
“He upholds the universe by the word of His power,” and I am bombarded with gossip and slander that tears down and destroys. But OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED.’
And my Father says, ‘THERE’S MORE. There’s always more of His fullness. Keep unwrapping.”
“In Him is hidden all the wisdom and knowledge of God,” and in us is revealed all of the folly and foolishness of man. But ‘OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED.’
“In Him the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily,” and in us, the emptiness of every false god we worship feeds on me like a big, fat tick. But ‘OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED.’
And my Father says, “You haven’t even begun to taste the FULLNESS OF MY SON. “Keep unwrapping.”
“In Him is life.” And the FULLNESS OF HIS LIFE swallows up the FULLNESS OF OUR DEATH so that in the end, all you’re left with is HIS LIFE, and not as something tucked away in the corner of your death, but LIFE that which is ALL IN ALL.
“In Him is light.” And the FULLNESS OF HIS LIGHT shatters the FULLNESS OF THE DARKNESS that’s in me and in you and in this whole, dark world. But my Father said, “Let there be light. And it was so.” And now, it is ‘so’ with you.
Keep unwrapping, and unwrapping, and unwrapping, because there is no end and no bottom to “the breadth and length and height and depth” of “HIS FULLNESS.”
So, what did you get for Christmas? What did Your Father give you?
And what have you done with it, this gift of a Savior who is Christ the Lord, that He has given you year after year after year?
I know that it’s only in heaven that we “will know fully even as we are fully known” and ‘comprehend’ what is for now, so ‘incomprehensible.’
But just think about how much better it could have been,
and how much wiser and smarter we could have been,
and how much more love we might have known
and how much more peace we might had
and how much less stressed and disappointed and hurt we might have been.
But we were busy with everything going on in our big, huge, all-absorbing,… shrinking, shriveling, dying lives.
But Your Father says, “Keep unwrapping.”
“FROM HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL, grace upon grace.” “Grace” is that undeserved kindness and mercy that blots out all of the ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’ and ‘might have beens,’ with the FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS ALL IN ALL.
GRACE UPON GRACE has no bottom, no end, no limits, and is always breaking over you like the waves on the beach at the seashore – one after another after another after another – until there is no more sea.
Grace is exactly what we need. And it’s exactly what we got for Christmas. It’s the FULLNESS OF THE LOVE OF GOD for you, wrapped in the fully human flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
As the Father loves the Son, so FROM HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED. As the Son loves the Father, so FROM HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED.
Love upon love. Mercy upon mercy. Forgiveness upon forgiveness. Life upon life. Glory upon glory.
It’s the same gift He gave us last year and the year before that and before that and now, guess what, this Christmas He has given it to us again. Because it’s exactly what we need.
And this year I say the same thing I’ve said every year, “Father, I thank you for your precious gift of A SAVIOR WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD. And I promise that I will do better with it than I did last year.”
To which He says, “I don’t know what you mean? All that I have ever seen in you is the FULLNESS OF MY BELOVED SON and the FULLNESS OF HIS LOVE in you.”
At some point in our life, we begin to realize that, ‘everything that’s going on in my life and that’s going around me,’ is not everything that’s going on.
A SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN, WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD. And IN HIM THE FULLNESS of the glory of God took the emptiness of all that is going on in my life and around me and swallowed it.
And on the cross, I see where my big, huge, all-absorbing life was headed. In Jesus, we see the love of God for me and my tiny, pathetic, empty life.
The baby born of Mary in the little town of Bethlehem is OUR LIFE, and of His FULLNESS we have not even begun to imagine let alone experience. But we will.
Until then, we just keep unwrapping.
[Heavily indebted to Rev. Michael Hintz]