S. Christmas Day.14 “Don’t Make Me Come Over There” John 1:1-18
“Don’t make me come over there…” you’ve heard it said, probably, (though almost certainly less than I’ve heard it said). I myself can still recall the tone in my mother’s voice (with mom, it’s all about tone isn’t it?) as she says it. I’m five (or six) years old, trying to combine common, ordinary household chemicals in a (hopefully!) combustible fashion—to see what will happen (or some such nonsense). How did she know what you were doing? How does mom manage to appear just before the serious trouble starts? She can’t even see you (you think, because you can’t see her). You only hear the voice: “don’t make me come over there” with the strangest mix of menace, authority, love, and affection. It seems at first that she only means to spoil a fun experiment (again) but you hear in the voice the same unmistakable kindness that beckons you to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with fresh squeezed lemonade after you’ve worked up an appetite playing outside on a warm summer day.
And it is that tone in her voice which sort of changes your view of the experiment with the household cleaners you’ve pinched from their secure locations—that and the menace that suggests painful consequences might ensue if you do make mom come over there. Maybe it’s not such a great idea. Maybe mom really does know better. Maybe that smell is chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven? Maybe it would be better to go up to the kitchen where mom is at and not make her come down to the basement where you are cooking up mischief? Maybe!
As I said, you’ve probably been there, or in some similar situation yourself. “Don’t make me come over there…” All I have to do is say it and a flood of memories comes pouring back, right?
But maybe it’s because that’s what God has been saying to Israel since the Garden of Eden gaffe, what He’s been saying to us throughout the Old Testament which we still hear with a mix of delight and trepidation. “What’re you doing down there? Don’t make me come over there…” But we didn’t exactly heed the warning did we? No. Not exactly…
Because this morning we hear with the same mix of delight and fear the Gospel of John first chapter, that, He did come over here! The Word, who was in the beginning with God, who is God and through whom all things were made, in whom is life, the life that is the light of humanity, the light that shines in the darkness though the darkness does not comprehend it—He came over here(!), and there is delight and fear mixed with that message.
He sent a forerunner named John, a very strange guy, weird clothes, bug diet, wild look in his eye, obsessed with Baptism and repentance. John told us “He’s coming over here! And look out when He comes! He’s got a winnowing fan and fire and an attitude—He sees what you’ve been doing, and believe me He knows you’ve all been naughty, so look out!” Yeah, that’s where the fear comes in, because deep down, we know John must be right. If the Holy God comes down in the flesh to check out what we’re doing, that can’t be good, right? Because we’ve all of us been up to no good, worse even than combining the household cleansers in a combustible fashion. You know what I’m talking about… we tried, but we can’t be good for goodness sake, or for any other reason. We tried and failed, so roh-oh. we’re in trouble now, Scoob!
And John the Evangelist confirms our fears, at first. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him…” No, like our first parents in the Garden, when we heard the sound of His voice, we ran and hid.
But some of us, those of us here this morning on this unfashionable but appropriate time to really celebrate His coming, Christmas morning, in the broad light of Day, we hear that tone in His voice that we remember from mom’s so long ago: when He says “don’t make me come over there…” it’s clear that He does want to come over, to be with us, even in our misery, to lighten our darkness, to bring cookies, or something even better.
We fear His coming (which is maybe why so many people are hiding at home under their Christmas trees this morning?) because when the Holy God mixes with His unholy children, that is a combustible mixture indeed, is it not? John said there would be fire when He comes! So our instinct is to run, hide, to not receive Him.
But the Gospel-writing John says “as many as received Him (not many, just a few) to them He gave the power to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. So the Word became flesh and dwelt among us—He came over here!—and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
And yes; there was some fear when we saw Him cast out demons, raise the dead, heal the sick, still the storms. When we saw Him shine like the sun on that mountain, it scared the beejeebers out of us; but when we peeked through the fingers over our eyes, and we saw no one but Jesus only, when we heard the amused affection in His “I’m coming over there” we knew it would be with cookies or something even better. And so we became friends, again, with Him, children of God, just as He promised.
We made Him come over here, into our dark and cold and misery; we even put Him on a cross (so fearful were we that He’d change things!). And when He came back to us alive on Easter morning, the tone in His voice was even more fearful and yet, also more playfully affectionate than mom’s ever was. And those nail-printed hands opened to embrace us, and to make us breakfast by the shore when we’d caught no fish all that long night before He showed.
We made Him come over here. Look what we’ve done! Torture, war, greed, corruption, stupidity in high and low places. C.S. Lewis said it well in his novel That Hideous Strength when Ransom tells Merlin “The poison was brewed in these West lands of ours, but it has spat itself everywhere by now. However far you went you would find the machines, the crowded cities, the empty thrones, the false writings, the barren beds: men maddened with false promises and soured with true miseries, worshiping the iron works of their hands, cut off from Earth their mother and from the Father in Heaven… the shadow of one dark wing is over all Earth.”
And into that darkness He came, our Lord Jesus Christ. Born in a stable, taking on our darkness to swallow it up in His marvelous light. His own reject Him, most still reject Him. But here and there and now and then, a little band like this one here will receive Him (in That Hideous Strength Lewis figures it’s “four men, three women, and a bear” not much to face the forces of wickedness in High Places, except that they are the ones to whom Christ the Lord has come. And that changes everything!
We are not in this age a glorious or victorious company. But we are the resistance. Because Christ Jesus came over here and made us so, into our dark, with His Light, forgiveness, life, grace, truth, and Peace surpassing all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Merry Christmas! Amen.