Some of you are old enough to remember back in 1979 when the American hostages were in Iran. It was just another chapter in this continuing tragedy in that part of the world. The first contact that the West had with the hostages was at Christmas when they allowed clergy to go in and conduct religious services on Christmas Day. William Sloane Coffin, at that time was the preacher at Riverside Church in New York and he was one of those ministers that went in there. He wrote about it. He said he was accompanied into the Embassy by two armed students, led into a room and left there. Then they came back with four of the hostages, marines that had been assigned to guard the Embassy.
Coffin was a great big bear of a man, gregarious and openly demonstrative. He immediately went over and hugged all four of those marines. They sat down. He passed out little books of Christmas carols. Coffin played the Christmas carols and they sang. Then he passed around his Bible, and he let each person there read a part of the Christmas story.
Then he gave his sermon. It went something like this. The Holy Family, he said, had been rejected, abandoned, and isolated in a barn. But God’s love changed that barn into a holy place. He suggested that the same thing might happen here. He told them, “This will not be your most joyful Christmas, but it could be your most meaningful one.”
Then he asked them all to join hands. They all stood up. He invited the Iranians to join hands with them. And they did! They did! They were standing there in a circle, holding hands. Coffin then prayed that they might experience a moment of grace when, in the sight of God, there would be neither American nor Iranian, neither captive nor captor here in this room. But, he prayed, that our hearts will be big enough to receive the Christ Child, and that one day we will all gather around the manger as one Family.
Coffin said he could see that one of the Iranian guards was crying, trying to fight back the tears. He couldn’t wipe his eyes because two marines were holding on to his hands. Coffin said, “I began to weep, too, because after all, that is why God gave us tears, to wash away all the bitterness, the sorrow, and the anger.”
4:5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
4:6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
4:7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
4:8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
4:11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
4:12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
4:14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;
4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.
4:20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”
4:26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
4:27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”
4:28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,
4:29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
4:30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
4:31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
4:32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
4:33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”
4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.
4:35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.
4:36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
4:37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’
4:38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
4:39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”
4:40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.
4:41 And many more believed because of his word.
4:42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”