If I say the n-word or the f-word, you know what words I’m talking about. You’d be appalled if I said either.
If I say certain four-letter words, some people are going to be offended.
If I say “Allah Akbar”, we all think of a Muslim. We probably think specifically of a jihadist about to blow himself up which incites fear.
If I say racist, you might picture a Ku Klux Klan member and feel disgusted. Some may think of Donald Trump or Justice Scalia who have recently been accused of being racist because of the things they have said.
If I say crippled or midget, some may cringe. This was language that was appropriate fifty years ago but today the term differently abled or little person are appropriate.
Words have power.
“Your son was born” may be different news to parents. If one was born 10 weeks early, his parents will be worried; while parents of a healthy full-term birth will be overjoyed.
“Your father passed” is devastating news to most children, but may be news that brings some relief to a family having watched a father battle Alzheimer’s disease.
What we say matters. Words invoke feelings of joy, sadness, fear, anger…any number of emotions.
I had a discussion with my mom several months ago about the difference between calling a terrorist a Muslim extremist and a jihadist. It was interesting to think about how it is important to some to identify terrorists as Muslims while others prefer to not connect them so closely to a religion. Some equate all Muslims with terrorism.
The title Christian can be equally upsetting to some in the US who envision a man wearing a sandwich board yelling in a bullhorn about hell and condemnation or a certain Baptist church picketing a soldier’s funeral. Not everyone thinks of moderate loving Christians like us gathered in a dark sanctuary waiting for a word to be spoken.
The words we say and hear are important because words bring up memories and images. The Gospel of John tells us about the most important word of all. The Gospel of John Chapter 1 verses 1 – 18 tell us of the Word made flesh. I’ll share with you a few of those verses which specifically tell about the Word:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made…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…Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Christ, the Word made flesh, is the most important word in our vocabulary. All the other words we speak we have given power to offend, invoke joy, or recall images. We gather here tonight because we have given power to the Word made flesh. We believe the Word is born man, yet is God. We are united by our faith in the Word. The Word made flesh has the power to transform lives through grace and truth. The Word has the power to change our hearts softening the rough edges and healing our wounds. But, I wonder if we give the Word enough power to actually rule over our lives.
At different times this year, I’ve asked you to share with me your most difficult prayers and questions of faith. You’ve been very honest with me about the things with which you wrestle. Tonight, I invite you to give due power to the Word to set you free from your concerns and liberate you from your difficulties. Tonight, a baby is born to set you free for a life of wholeness lived to the glory of God. Claim the abundant joy possible only when the Word made flesh is the most powerful word in your vocabulary, because in the Word there is life.
Beyond tonight, we need to continue to claim that joy and give homage to the Word. We must read Scripture and we must gather. When we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, we live a life devoted to the Word made flesh. When we gather for worship, we do so to hear the Word of God read and proclaimed. It is essential to our spiritual lives that we gather together, not just on special nights like Christmas, but throughout the year. Then, the Word made flesh, who we remember was born, who remains with us, may dwell in our hearts as a living hope. Give the Word the power to reign over your life then we will know the redemption He was born to give.