Johannes 1:1–4 | Candlemas: Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ at the Temple | Pfr. Turunen
„Grace be with you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” † (Amen).
God’s Holy Word for this day is written in the First Letter of St. John, in the first chapter:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
„The Lord bless us through his Word.” Amen.
[Sermon] Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to wish all of you a merry Christmas! Yes, you heard me, today we celebrate the Eve of Candlemas which is the last day of Christmas. Candlemas is the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the day of the Purification of his mother Mary. According to Old Testament Law, after the birth of a son a woman had to stay at home for forty days, and on the fortieth day she had to bring an offering of Purification to the Temple. Therefore, we celebrate Candlemas 40 days after Christmas, and it is part of the Church’s Christmas celebration. Traditionally, on Candlemas new candles were brought to church to be blessed for the year to come, hence the name Candlemas. The light of the candles reminds us of Christ who is the Light of the World.
The text for the sermon of the day is the prologue of the 1st letter of John. The Apostle mentions three important topics in his text. These are the Word, the Life, and Fellowship. I want to talk about those in my sermon today.
First, the Word. John says: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. ” You may also remember another prologue where John states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
The Word. It is an important expression for John. It is indeed an expression from Greek Philosophy that John borrows and uses here to teach us about the secrets of the Divine. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Even before the man Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem, He was. He had not come into flesh, yet, but He was, He was there with the Father in Heaven. He was there at the beginning when the Father spoke the Word, and the universe became to be. The Father spoke the Word: “Let there be light.” And there was light. Through the Word everything was made, through the Word God created everything that exists. And when God interacted with man He was always there, He, the Word. When God spoke to Noah to enter the ark, He was there. When God said to Moses to free his People from Egypt, He was there. And when God spoke to the prophets, He was there. “The Word of the Lord came to him”, is written countless times in the books of the Old Testament. The Word of God, the Word of the Lord.
The Greek expression Logos does not just mean Word, it also means intelligence or intellect or wisdom. So, it is no wonder when King Solomon describes Christ in the book of Proverbs as God’s Wisdom who speaks for himself: “I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Proverbs 8:23–31)
Like a thought is in our mind, so the Word was with the Father. He was always there together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the first and second and third person of the Holy Trinity communed together as an endless spring and well of overflowing love, separate persons, but one God, equal in glory and majesty. And like the thought in our mind is revealed when we open our mouths to speak, so God the Son was revealed when God spoke. It is a miracle when the holy and eternal God wants to have a relationship with us humans. But even more miraculous it is when this holy and eternal God decides he wants to dwell with us humans. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.” This is what John means when he speaks about the Word of Life that we have heard, seen and touched: the young disciple John listened to Christ speak, he saw the face of Christ, and he leaned on Christ’s chest the night he was betrayed. John listened, when the Word of the Lord was speaking to him, God himself looked John in the eye, and the Hands of God touched John when Jesus offered him the bread and the cup during the last supper. The holy and eternal God became man, the pure came to the unclean, the majesty took off his divine form and clothed himself in flesh. Life itself was visiting the Land of Death.
This is the other important expression John uses: Life. “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” Or as Jesus put it: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) The eternal God didn’t become man just for the fun of visiting us. No, there is a very important plan going on here. God the Son became man to save us. John is proclaiming and testifying about this. He is saying: “Listen, this is important. I am proclaiming to you the eternal life that is in Jesus Christ!” If you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have a life. Therefore, get a life! Or on a more serious note: be joined with Life itself, be joined with Jesus Christ the God-man who is the well of all life. Outside of him there is only darkness and death, but in him there is eternal life. As Jesus himself says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
And this leads us to the third point and conclusion of the sermon. The keyword that John uses is Fellowship. He is inviting us first to have fellowship with him, that is: to have fellowship with the church. Certainly, it is much easier to have fellowship with somebody you can see. But then he continues: “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” Another miracle: By having fellowship with the followers of Christ you actually have fellowship with Christ himself. Right now, He is here. The Word of Life is among us. He, the Eternal Life is among us. You sitting there in the pew, listening to the sermon of God’s Word, come into fellowship with Him. You are in the presence of the living God. And it gets even more: Soon we will celebrate Holy Communion. And there it is not just bread and wine that you are going to eat and drink. No, it is the precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. God the Son became man to save us and to have fellowship with us sinners. And that he is going to do today once more. He comes closer to you than any other, so that you will be filled by his love. Whatever sins and burdens you are carrying; they shall be washed away by the blood of the Lamb. When the Word of Life comes, there is no room left for sin and death. Those destructive powers are pushed aside, darkness cannot prevail when the Light of the World comes, and so your body becomes the stable and the manger into which the Saviour of this world is born.
Let us rejoice with John and all the Apostles and all the prophets and saints and angels and archangels for the Word of Life is with us. And when we have received the Sacrament, we, too, like John, can say: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim.”
“And may the peace of God which is greater than our understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. † Amen.”