St John the Evangelist

Sermon Date: 
27 Dec 2009
Bible Base: 
David Jeans

I wonder who are your favourite characters in the Christmas story (other than Jesus) and why?
My favourites are probably the shepherds. As you may know shepherds were not thought of very highly in New Testament Palestine. They were rough, from the margins of society. And whereas the wise men were looking for a King, the shepherds weren’t. They were just getting on with their job, watching out for wolves; they were ordinary blokes, so doing more than one thing at once would have been hard for them. In a way they just stumbled into the story. They were out in the fields minding their sheep, minding their own business.
And suddenly there were angels singing away. I wonder what the shepherds thought about that. Well it was Christmas Eve, maybe they first put it down to drinking the local brew.
What did the angels do?
They explained to the shepherds what was going on –the sign of a baby born to an ordinary family who was God come in human form. Not to royalty, not to important people, but to a tradesman and his girl.
How do ordinary people find out what is really going on? How do they get beyond all the trimmings of Christmas? They don’t meet angels very often!
But if you look at the word angel you will find it is closely related to another word very relevant to the day we celebrate today. You have to think of adding a few letters at the beginning and a few at the end. Any ideas?
The word is evangelist; evangelist and angel are closely related because they are both based on the Greek word ‘angelos’ which means a messenger. Angels are messengers from God. Evangelists are a particular sort of messenger – in the Greek world they were messengers bringing good news – especially of victory.
Today we celebrate St John the Evangelist – the person this church is named after. John is the person who wrote John’s Gospel. What was the good news that John the Evangelist wrote about?
It can be summarised in three small words beginning with the letter ‘l’ which appear regularly in John’s Gospel. The first is a word we have used a lot in the season of Advent. ‘LIGHT’
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Jesus said I am the light of the world.
When it’s dark we cannot see things clearly. This time of year we have to put the lights on early, sometimes throughout the day. The light helps us to see things as they really are. Jesus shows us the way things really are, and above all he shows us who God really is. He shows us grace and truth. He shows us good news about God, as well as good news from God. He shows us a God of mercy, and a God of our second word beginning with ‘l’ which is the word ‘LOVE’
Jesus showed the love of God in the way that he healed people, the way he washed the disciples’ feet, the way he offered forgiveness. And of course John the Evangelist records in his Gospel some of the most famous verses about love. It was said by the historians of the early church that the one they called John the Elder (thought by many to be the John who wrote the Gospel) in his old age would say just one thing – little children, love one another. And his gospel contains verses like
Love one another as I have loved you
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love
And of course For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life
Which brings us to our third word beginning with ‘l’ ‘LIFE’
At the end of his gospel, John the Evangelist said that he had written about Jesus ‘so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
He also recorded Jesus saying:-
I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent
(I love the peace of God blessing – that you may be kept in the knowledge and love of God – because that is where true life is to be found.)
At the heart of John the Evangelist’s good news are light, love and life – all to be found in Jesus Christ.
So what about us? We are named after John the Evangelist. So we should share the same good news with ordinary blokes (and women and children), who will rarely have a choir of angels to tell them what is really going on. They need to see us as individuals and as a community embodying light, love and life in Jesus Christ. I love our church being named after the one who when he had little breath left would say ‘little children, love one another’. I love being challenged to show light, love and life to our community. May God fill us with his light, love and life so that we may share it with others.