Sermon Text: John 1: 10-18; Ephesians 1: 3-14
When my parents moved from Hollidaysburg I was in college. Because I had no permanent residence to store all of my stuff, they boxed up everything, even the things I had no interest in keeping, and took it south with them. Once I was established in a house, every trip my parents made north including a box of stuff with my name on it—boxes that were never opened—boxes that came full circle, back to Hollidaysburg when we moved last October that I STILL had not opened. Well, this past week I finally summoned up the willpower to go into the attic and I brought down two of those boxes.
The first box contained toys. In this box I found a model train set (free to anyone who would like it. I’m fairly certain it works.). Also, I found my collection of Micro Machines, and that was most exciting to go through those and remember the days when I played with them. When I was young some of those Micro Machine cars and planes accompanied me in these pews and kept me quiet and well behaved.
Then I made it to the second box, the one marked “Nanny’s Stuff for David.” Nanny was my paternal grandmother, my Dad’s Mom. When my grandparents downsized and moved into a two bedroom apartment in a retirement community I was asked to go through the house and to identify the things that I wanted. The only thing I clearly remember asking for was this, a giant ceramic toad that always fascinated me. Clearly, I know a valuable family heirloom when I see it! This things was painted by a friend and given to my grandparents in 1973. I remember asking for that. I have memories attached to this silly thing.
But everything else in this box…oh, Lordy! I sat and I unwrapped all of these things covered in newsprint. The first thing I unwrapped was a crystal candy dish. I unwrapped the next item. Another crystal candy dish. Again and again I uncovered pieces of crystal: crystal vases, crystal animal figurines, crystal serving dishes, and more crystal candy dishes. Nine pieces of crystal along with a whole assortment of porcelain statues, Native American pottery, and pewter animals.
I was 17 or 18 years old when my grandmother did this, when she packed all these things away. I wonder what exactly made her think that these things were perfect for me? After all, what 18 year old doesn’t want this? This very large and very ornate crystal candy dish that now has a home on my desk in the church office?
The whole event made me laugh. I called my parents, wondering if they had any idea why I had this new collection of crystal on my hands. I asked because, crystal, no matter how beautiful and well cut, is not really my thing.
As best as I can figure, these were things that were important to my grandmother. She had great pride in her house and these crystal pieces were apart of that. Also, I know that my grandmother loved me and she wanted me to have some tangible possessions to remind me of her and my grandfather.
This box of breakable objects is part of my inheritance. As an heir I have been given these gifts because I am a loved family member: a child. I did nothing to earn these gifts, they were given to me out of love. And thus, I will keep a few of these pieces, though certainly not all of them, because there is that family connection, because there are memories, because I am a beloved child who was gifted this inheritance.
It’s not often that we are able to celebrate the Second Week of Christmas. Our calendar usually sets us up to move into Epiphany. But today is the 11th/12th Day of Christmas and we continue to celebrate the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ. We also continue to dive into John’s version of the Nativity. The Word became flesh and lived among us.
In verse 12 of today’s Gospel we hear John speak to the importance of Jesus’ birth–what his birth will mean for the rest of humanity. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
Simply put, through Jesus we have all become God’s children. Because of Jesus’ birth and life among us, because of his ministry, because of his death and resurrection, we have all been given the opportunity to become one with him…to become children of the same almighty God. In Jesus Christ we all have been united, which means the inheritance that Jesus received will also be the inheritance that we will all receive from God.
However, this is a different type of inheritance. This is not a confused 33 year-old man opening up a small assortment of crystal and pottery and animal figurines. In Christ we have obtained this inheritance from God, it is the Kingdom of Heaven, where we and all of creation will live to the praise of God’s glory.
In our Ephesians reading Paul also tells us that our inheritance will bring about redemption. That through the work of Jesus Christ, God has bought us back and restored us from the forces of sin and death. I find it interesting that the inheritance we receive restores us all in right relationship with each other and with God, especially since inheritances often lead to nasty and permanent splits in families.
It’s something we have all seen or maybe even experienced. That great family drama of who gets what can create some horrible conflict in families as people fight over possessions. I know people who haven’t talked to their siblings in over thirty years because of the way property was divided at the time of their parents’ death.
But with this inheritance, with the gift that we receive to God, there is no scarcity, so there should be no fighting and bickering over who gets what. Through Jesus’ abundance there is room for us all to receive this gift. We can all fit in the Kingdom. Also, we all get the same inheritance. Therefore, this gift will not separate us, it will bring us together. It is designed to redeem us, to reconcile us.
We obtain this inheritance because Jesus has given us the power to become children of God. We receive this gift, not because of what we have done, but because of who we are. We are a loved family member. We are God’s beloved children.
And one last thing. Inheritance gifts are given, in part, because those who have died want to make their loved ones lives a little bit better. A little bit easier. The gifts we receive will hopefully enhance our living.
The same is true with the gift that Jesus brings to us. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. It would be foolish for us to think that our inheritance, the Kingdom of God, is only good for us after we die. But in reality, God’s present to us to designed to help our daily lives, our day to day existence and interactions.
Because we have received grace upon grace, because we have received an inheritance that we do not have to fight and work and toil for, we have the freedom to share what we’ve been given. We do not have to worry about our salvation and our redemption, for that has been taken care of. Instead, we are given the very real task of taking care of each other, our community, and our world.
So let us continue to rejoice and celebrate Jesus’ birth. For in Jesus God has been made known to us. In Jesus we have received grace upon grace. In Jesus, we have become co-inheritors, destined for redemption and the Kingdom of Heaven. There is space enough for us all. Let’s share this good news. AMEN