The opening of the Gospel according to John is read and heard a lot during Christmas time. It reminds us of the cosmic and universal aspects of the birth of Jesus, just as Matthew and Luke remind us of the personal and national aspects of his birth. One particular verse in this part of John’s gospel calls to mind some of the philosophy books in our library describing the attributes of God. Along with eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, and others, most authors also mention an aspect of God that is sometimes termed “absolute”, and other times called “necessary”. Along with God’s “absolute” or “necessary” nature comes the fact that everything else is “conditional” or “contingent”, at least in the philosophical structures of those authors. What they mean is: “if there is a God, then only God must exist, and everything else exists only because God makes it so.” Only God is absolute and necessary, everything else is contingent and conditional. This is what we get in the third verse of our gospel reading today: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”
God is existence; God is being; God is life – that is the God of the philosophers. But we also say that God is love – that is the God of Jesus. God is love, and so gives existence, being, and life to others. We must always remember that those things are gifts; we can create nothing by our own power – not life or love or happiness or prosperity or people who act the way we want them to or situations that turn out the way we want them to. Since everything is a gift from God, we can only be stewards of the things around us. (Maybe “only” is not a good word to use, because it is a great honor to be caretakers of anything God makes.)
We can stop worrying about things, because nothing is under our control. That does not mean we can be lazy, because we can and should do our best to take care of the people, things, and events God has entrusted to us. In fact, realizing that God has given us the world around us to take care of should make us very careful of the work we put into our guardianship of the things around us. But after that, we can do nothing to control the results of our work. Knowing that takes a burden off of our shoulders, because we can only do our best – no more and no less – and after that everything is up to God. We are free to be stewards of the universe, and we are free to be under other people’s stewardship. In fact the honor of caring for others and being under other people’s care is so great that God chose to experience it as a child under the care of Joseph and Mary, and then as a master caring for his disciples.
The universe is a wonderful gift. Our lives are wonderful gifts. The people around us are wonderful gifts. We have everything to be thankful for, because we have a lifetime of unwrapping presents ahead of us. AMEN