Christmas Day [by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi]

Principal Service
1st Reading
Isaiah 52.7-10
2nd Reading
Hebr 1.1-4[5-12]
John 1.1-14

Christmas Day – John 1:1-14

by Archbishop Bernard, Representative of Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and Director of Anglican Centre in Rome.

John’s Gospel provides a wealth of materials on Jesus’ life and ministry not found in the other Gospels. His work is considered the most simplest yet the most profound of the four Gospels. Only John is written from a divine perspective, in which Jesus is portrayed as the ‘Son of God.’ In the beginning was the Word…. and the Word was with God… and the Word was God….’ John writes in order to persuade his readers to believe in who Jesus is. He writes ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ (Jn 20:31) That is his identity.

As Christians, we gather as many sorts and kinds and conditions of people, with varying languages and positions and opinions. Yet all of us know one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and we claim one God and Father of all of us. It is a blessing and a miracle, that we can claim our unity as often and deeply as we do. We are the Body of Christ. We are all members of one Body, that of God’s creation, whether we talk about the human part of that creation or the whole planet. This planet is filled with the glory of God, if we are ready to look for the Creator’s creativity.

God’s creativity is abundantly evident in human responses to massive human challenges. As Irenaeus said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive. When God’s creatures are filled with creative energy, God’s glory is indeed most alive and evident. When we are passionately invested as partners in that creativity, we are becoming more of who and what God created us to be.

Jesus speaks of that same kind of passion when he tells of the two sons asked to work in the vineyard (Matt. 21:28-32). Both were sent but only one answered the call by actually going to work. Which one of us will answer that passionate call to creative labour in God’s vineyard? The vineyard is all around us; it is an ancient image of creation, ready to become fruitful and life-giving. The question now is whether we are willing to cooperate and become co-creators. Who will go and work in the vineyard and what does the working in the vineyard really mean?

Is it tending the soil, ensuring adequate water is available to all, digging out the weeds? Or have we been invited to prune the wild growth out of the vineyard? Fertile soil always invites weeds, and if they are left alone, they eventually steal all the nutrients from the soil. Human communities without caretakers experience the same thing-the weedy behaviour we call exploitation or greed or corruption. The human vineyard needs gardeners of justice so that tender growth is protected, so that fruit is shared and no one outside the gate goes hungry.

Life in this changing planet will make it harder for the poorest among us to survive. Once we start to get our hands dirty, we begin to see that the state of the vineyard or the garden affects all of God’s creation and that the same vulnerable populations are the same that still suffer: the widows, orphans, immigrants, the landless etc. The rich can move, the wealthy can pay higher prices and the powerful can build strong houses to avoid the cruelty of changing weather patterns. Who will go to work in the vineyard and who will challenge those who misuse or waste the vineyard? The Body of Christ is called for that purpose so that the glory of God may be evident.

by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, Rome