The Soul Felt Its Worth

John 1

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomeit.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Time Magazine declared 2011 to be the year of the Protestor. Starting in Tunisia, the energy of people long oppressed around the world came together to overthrow governments and businesses that had catered to the wealthy and took from those who had nothing left to give.

The first stanza of O Holy Night tells us that when Christ appeared, the “soul felt its worth.” To have God become flesh and dwell among us is to know that we matter – that we matter to God and therefore should matter to each other. The protests around the world are people standing up and saying “We matter. We should be treated with respect and justice.”

What is light but a protest against the darkness? If we were to turn out the lights in this building, we would all be in darkness, not just a few of us. Darkness around the world affects those of us who think we’re living in the light.

Today’s scripture tells us that the birth of Christ enables us to become children of God. The Greek work in this passage is more accurately translated, “children who are, by very nature, God’s”, implying a genetic connection. If I were to show you a picture of my parents, you would see very clearly the strong resemblance I have to both of them. It’s not something that I have to try to do or make happen. I look like them because I am related to them. I also act like them because I am related to them.

The coming of Christ gives us the ability to look and act like God because we had a living example of how God would act in the world if God came in the flesh. When we choose to follow this path, we are called to become people who are light in the world, casting out darkness and ending the oppression of the weak.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

Louis Etongwe, age fifty-two, liberates slaves from the homes of wealthy families in the states ofVirginia,Maryland, andNew Jersey.

No, that’s not a news bulletin from pre–Civil WarAmerica. Louis lives in modern-dayWilliamsburg,Virginia, and in seven separate incidents since 1999 he has rescued teenage African girls from domestic servitude and sexual bondage. Remarkably, Louis has no training in immigration law, he has no social services organization standing behind him, and he funds his activities with the money he earns from a modest salary working for the telephone company. “I act out of principle,” Louis says without a trace of hubris. “I can’t sit by passively when predators take advantage of the defenseless.”

Louis’s story of becoming a modern-day abolitionist is found in David Batstone’s book Not For Sale, a book that has become a world-wide movement to end slavery and human trafficking, at its highest rates in human history.

The third stanza of O Holy Night tells us that the “slave is our brother”. If we truly saw the slave as our brother, would we be dealing with this epidemic? We like to see ourselves for the most part as free people, but for most of us, that freedom is an illusion. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that unless there is freedom for everyone, there is freedom for no one. Frederick Buechner tells us that “your life and my life flow into one another…so unless there is peace and freedom for you there is no peace and freedom for me.”

The protests in Tunisia began when a merchant who had been so constantly oppressed by local police and government that he soaked himself with turpentine and set himself ablaze outside his local police station to protest his treatment. This horrendous act was caught on video and circled the globe through social networking sites. He died a few days later, but the movement gained a life that spread around the region and eventually around the world.

The end of oppression is an exciting thought, and one that has been a big part of this past year. I have to wonder, however, if as people who claim to be followers of Jesus, if we shouldn’t have been part of the end of oppression years ago. Jesus told his disciples that if they chose not to offer praise to God, the very rocks would cry out. The protests that have happened around the world that were not initiated by Christ-followers are an examples of the rocks crying out because no matter what, God’s will is done, and we know from scripture God’s will is the end of oppression.

Oppression takes many forms. There are the obvious forms of oppression, like slavery, child labor, and unjust political regimes. The hidden oppressors that live inside us can be much more insidious and prevent a true connection between us and God. We are addicted to drugs, alcohol, food. We are depressed. We are cowering under the shame of a sexual assault or of our own life choices. We have secret habits that we think we have under control, but in reality they control us. We are buried under debt and living beyond our means. No one is immune to oppression. Oppression is darkness, and the light of God’s love is the only cure. We must shine the healing sunlight of truth on these oppressors and with the support of our communities, rid ourselves of the things that oppress us and keep us from becoming who God intends us to be.

When one is oppressed we are all oppressed. The calling we have in Christ is not a small one. It is difficult, dangerous, costly and complicated. It is also not optional. We’re starting a new year, and most of us think in terms of resolutions and changes of habit that have to do with our outsides. We all say we’re going to lose weight, join the gym, get more rest, slow down, get healthy. Rarely do any of us follow through with these resolutions. This year I would challenge us all to make the more manageable resolution to be light to the world in some way every day. You can do this by buying someone coffee, giving encouragement, volunteering for a cause about which you are passionate, tutoring kids after school, or serving at a soup kitchen. Make the resolution and with the support of your community, follow through. Oppression within yourself, your community and the world can come to an end. Make a choice today to protest the darkness with light.

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