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First Sunday after Christmas

Saint Margaret’s

Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary

And the Word became flesh and lived among us...

A week ago today was December 24th, Christmas Eve, the day before Christmas; or if you prefer, a week ago today was the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday of the four week season of expectation and preparation before Christmas. I suppose we could say then with some

justification that last Sunday in itself and in some sense marked both end and beginning: the end of Advent and our time of spiritual anticipation before Christmas and the birth of our Lord; and the beginning of our Christmas festivities themselves. We tried to offer a bit of both last Sunday here in our service. Someone else will have to decide how well we succeeded in that.

At a more profound level, Christmas, the original one some two thousand years ago, also marks a beginning of sorts; the beginning of, well, the beginning; the coming of the Christ, the Word or Logos, as our account this morning from the Gospel of John calls him, the advent in other words of the eternal and numinous into this humble world of stardust and dirt, water and mire, flesh and blood. Call it Genesis all over again, for that is clearly what is on the mind of the Evangelist John as he writes these words. That is why the first words of his Gospel, its beginning, if you will, are the words, “in the beginning.”

Now, how to await or prepare for something which has never happened before and is unlikely ever to happen again is, I suppose, the perennial challenge of the season of Advent just past. How does alpha prepare for omega...? How does flesh and blood prepare for the “grace and truth,” of which our Gospel passage also speaks...? Difficult questions. After all, the original creation story as recounted to us in the Book of Genesis and perhaps explained by science with the theory of the Big Bang, had no advent season of which anyone is aware. God said, and it just was; it just happened.

Well, if December 24th was a Sunday, as it indeed was, then today, December 31st, must also perforce be a Sunday. Which of course it is, or we would not be sitting here this morning in church. And it being December 31st, it is obviously also the last day of the year; the day upon which people traditionally look back on what has been over the past three-hundred and sixty-five days; and nearly simultaneously look forward to the New Year ahead; avoiding if possible mental whiplash in the process. What has been and what will be. End and beginning. We see more or less clearly of course what 2023 has been, and I for my part did not much like it, at least on the world stage. What will be of course remains to be seen.

The problem the Evangelist John faces as he begins his Gospel account of the life of our Lord is one philosophers before him and after have all grappled with; grapple with still to

this day. How do you get from Alpha to Omega...? Equally importantly, how do you get from the eternal to the here-and-now; from the divine Word, of which the Evangelist John speaks, to flesh-and-blood, to human beings, as we choose to call ourselves...? John simply, yet profoundly, tells us, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” And that is that. In other words, he through whom everything was created became himself that which was created. Perhaps no further explanation is needed or, for that matter, even possible. The beginning and the end wrapped into one.

In the darkness of time, the light of the eternal nevertheless shines through. And “John testified to him,” as John the Evangelist also says of John the Baptist in our account this morning. And it is perhaps that testimony itself which gets the world, and us, from Alpha to Omega; from the beginning to the end. For John the Baptist, the Everyman and every person of the Gospels, is as much part of the story in some sense as is the Christ. As are we. For, if John is a witness to the light of the Gospel, so must we also be. What happened in the beginning with Christ is with us still today. The Gospel itself begins and ends with each of us; as it begins and ends with each new generation of Christians. We, it seems, are what comes between Alpha and Omega.

Happy New Year.The Revd Canon Dr Frank Hegedűs

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