My mother-in-law exemplifies hospitality. She not only makes people feel welcome into her home, she makes people feel welcome anywhere that she is – in other people’s homes, in church, in restaurants, at funerals, department stores, she opens her heart to everyone around her. If you look up the word, “hospitality” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Joyce Hack.
A few years ago – John-Mark, the kids and I traveled home from Colorado in January. We got up early in the morning to make the 3 hour drive to the airport in Denver to learn that our flight was canceled. Once on another flight, there was a mix-up in the luggage between our plane and the plane next to us. So while we waited, they removed all the luggage from both planes, rescanned them all, and put them into the appropriate plane. During the flight, John-Mark’s reading light and headphones quit working and the flight attendants were rude to us and to people around us. When we got to Chicago another plane was at our gate so we sat for 45 minutes on the tarmac waiting. When we finally de-boarded we realized that we had to get to the other side of the airport, in a different concourse, in a short amount of time. The shuttle only had room for 4, we were 5! So we took off running to our gate. As we boarded our flight, they shut the door behind us. When we arrived in Louisville we discovered that our luggage had not, — the perfect ending to our crazy travel day. However, when we walked out of the airport, there was my mother-in-law to greet us with a smile and a hug. The table at her house was set beautifully with candles and wonderful foods. She had all the beds ready for us to collapse into at the end of a long day. She was the light in the darkness of our day. If I had to describe her with only one word it would be “hospitality.”
People in my life and in yours define other words like hospitality. Through their words and actions, we experience these concepts. By living out these words, we come to understand them. As a child, I learned love, compassion, empathy, care, and trust through my mother. She acted out these words for me. Now, the word for my mother is generous. She gives of her time, her things and her money.
Today is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. Twelve is an important number in the Bible and so we have 12 days of Christmas. Epiphany was first recognized in the year 361. In the East the celebration of Epiphany is in celebration of the baptism of Jesus, here, in the West, it is the visit of the Magi.
Matthew is the gospel that records the visit of the Magi. While we are not told how many Wise Men or Magi there were, there were 3 gifts. The important thing to note about these visitors is not the number but that they were not Jewish. They were the first gentiles to honor Christ. From the beginning God incarnate came for the whole world. Jesus came to restore the entire world to wholeness not just one religious or ethnic group.
But our text this morning is not about the Magi. The first part of our text is the prologue to the rest of John and it reads like a song. It is similar in cadence to early Christian hymns and scholars agree that the first five verses are an excerpt of a hymn used in worship by the early church. The words to the hymn gave John’s first readers an immediate connection to the gospel.
In the beginning was the Word. The Word, or in Greek Logos, was familiar both to the Jewish and gentile communities. John takes this familiar word and redefines it, gives it deeper meaning. Logos means God’s self-communication, how we come to know and understand God’s innermost nature. Logos Word is Christ, the Messiah, our Savior, God incarnate, God in flesh.
Without the Word we would have some understanding of God through the created world, the sky and the trees, the river and the ocean, the warmth of the sun and the cold of the snow. God has always been available through nature.—
My grandmother Divine was in her 80’s before she ever saw the ocean. She lived her whole life in Mercer County and had not traveled. She married there, raised her children there, buried her parents, sister, daughter and husband there. She had seen pictures of the ocean. She had seen the ocean on the television. We had told her about the ocean but it was not until my cousin took her there that she understood its power and magnificence. She stood on the beach in her bare feet with the waves lapping at her ankles in amazement at the enormity and beauty before her. By experiencing the ocean, she came to know the ocean.
It is impossible to fully comprehend the enormity of the oceans without experiencing them, it is difficult to comprehend hospitality or generosity without experiencing them. We must experience in order to truly understand, to know.
—God IS found in the world, in nature, in music, in art, in people. God is experienced through the hospitality and generosity, love and compassion of others. God is present and available to everyone, everywhere, at all times.
But God is known most fully through a man born of humble of parents in a humble of place. God is known most fully through a man who was named Jesus. John eloquently reminds us that “what has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people….And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth….grace and truth came through Jesus Christ… who has made God known.”
Know Jesus; know God. AMEN