“How a Little Baby Changed Everything”

John 1:1-14

Christmas Eve, 2014

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches


John 1:1-14

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”




I’ve always found it interesting

That the God who created the cosmos

Decided to get some “hands on” experience.

The same God who wove the tapestry of the universe

Was willing to rend the heavens and step through.

The same God who acted with unlimited power and authority

Willingly chose to make himself wholly helpless and dependent upon others.


Life in the womb comes from the mother.

She supplies it all: food, nutrients, protection;

The warmth and love that only a mother can give.

The circle of care is extended at birth,

But only a little bit.

Responsibility rests largely upon the mother.

Men in most cultures like to make a big show of it,

But, in reality, the child looks to the mother for its every need.

The burden of responsibility lay heavily upon Mary,

Here, now, lay the creator and savior of the world.


I find it interesting that God chose Mary:

A young, inexperienced, adolescent engaged in an arranged marriage.

Mary was poor,

From a modest Nazarene family.

When you have nothing,

Pride is the only substitute.

It is really hard to be proud of the fact

That she was unmarried, pregnant, and with a shattered reputation.

It is really hard to be proud of the fact

That there was no doctor, no mid-wife, no assistance

Other than the supportive presence of Joseph

(yea, like I’m sure that was real helpful).

Mary probably had nothing more than

Her childhood experience of watching animals give birth.


Yet, God took the risk

And allowed himself to be born onto a bed of straw

In a cold, damp cave,

Dug out of the rocks and cobbled together

for the purpose of feeding farm animals.

Think of the obstetrical dangers:

Women die in childbirth.

Babies can be born breach,

Or with the cord around the neck.

Think about the disease and illness of infancy.

The risk of

Infant and maternal mortality was very high,

Known to God from the beginning;

A hugely significant danger.


Modern wisdom would suggest that God postpone his plans,

For at least two thousand years.

When you consider the history of the universe was on the line,

The one responsible for the future salvation of the world

Had plans to test the waters of the human condition,

Wouldn’t it at least be wise to consider

Pre-emptive prenatal care,

A planned C-Section,

At a modern birthing center,

By one of the best obstetricians available?


Yet, God took the risk.


The future was less than certain.

Oh, in hindsight, we speak with certainty about God,

“Of course it turned out that way. Why wouldn’t it?”

But when it comes to predicting the future

Of God’s intersection with humanity,

We fail miserably.

God’s agenda is God’s agenda.

Not ours.

God has made a sport of out witting, out playing, and out lasting

Every human initiative.

God hasn’t made a habit of chasing the sticks we call upon him to fetch.

And God isn’t likely to change for us now.


The baby Jesus faced danger at every turn.

It began with his birth, but quickly escalated

To when Herod slaughtered all the children

Sending the Holy Family fleeing into Egypt.

Danger waited around every corner for Jesus.

The wrong word,

The disrespectful look,

Bloodthirsty crowds,

A military occupation,

Authorities with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

God took one heck of a risk.

Humans with free will are about as predictable

As the price of crude or the Russian ruble.


Yet, God took the risk.

God took the risk to bridge the gap between heaven and earth

And to, once and for all,

Cement not only a sacred past

But establish an eternal future for every one of his people.

God took the risk of a less than certain outcome

For your behalf, and mine.


God took the risk of a less than certain outcome

For your behalf, and mine.


I understand that it is hard to believe.

It is hard to believe in anything in today’s world.

When human kind is so cruel to one another,

Where terrorists assault schools and slaughter children,

Where some lives appear to matter more than other lives,

Where the word “torture” is wordsmithed to death.


I understand that it is hard to believe.

It is hard to believe when surrounded by the massive indifference

Of people who just don’t want to be bothered

By the suffering and injustice taking place right in front of us.


I understand that it is hard to believe in Jesus Christ

Given the current status of organized religion;

Cover up, hypocrisy, and violence,

Often in the name of a peaceful, loving god.


But what I’m suggesting this evening

Is that just as God took a risk for you

So too should you take a risk in God

By extending to God your belief.


Belief isn’t certainty.

It is not being certain about heaven, the virgin birth, or that Jesus is the Son of God.

No pastor, priest, or pope is able to speak with certainty;

Present company included.

The only language we clerics know

Comes from the Word, the Sacrament, and experience.


Neither is belief proof,

Which particularly upsets me, because, as you know,

I am a child of the enlightened scientific era.

My discipline is in mathematics.

Math demands proof.

I can no more prove to you the divinity of Christ

Than I can jump over the moon.


Belief in a baby is daring.

It’s risky.

It does set you apart from the rest of the crowd,

The faceless masses of the dull,

The self-interested,

The endless consumers of retail garbage.


Belief in a baby makes you colorful,

A trend setter,

One who is ready and willing

To advance faith beyond where is has been

To what it can become.


Belief in a baby named Jesus

Makes one filled with hope.

The name Jesus means Savior.

Our hope is that Jesus will save us from the trials and temptations of this earth.

Our hope is that Jesus will save us into eternal glory.


Belief in a baby places our hope in God

And not in anything of this earth

Or in our less-than-perfect selves.


Ultimately belief in this divine birth

Means that we are ready to match God’s risk even up.

Better than even up.

Give a little to get a lot.

We don’t need much; have you seen just how small a mustard seed is?

That’s all the faith we need to take

A little risk.

A little belief.

That’s all the baby Jesus is asking.