Often, it seems that Christmas is the culmination of something, and the church then goes into a holding pattern until Ash Wednesday, or even Easter.} Not unlike in the US, it seems that many approach Christmas as a deadline that must be met; all the shopping done, the preparations made, for THIS DAY. I have been to Fortnum & Mason two days before Christmas, and I survived the rush. Here we are, on Christmas morn; it is done. We made it.
Yet, thankfully, Christmas is not a period at the end of a sentence. It is not a destination, but a pathway to something even more wonderful.
An exclamation point, a pause in which to focus, a moment that points to something even more mysterious and wonderful. Here on Christmas morning, we are still a people of the now, and the not yet.
A missionary who lived years ago as a teacher in Africa, became good friends with his students. The missionary had been talking to his students about the traditions of Christmas. One of the students presented the missionary with a seashell of extraordinary beauty. The missionary, recognizing that such seashells could only be found miles up the coast from the village, said to the student, “What a beautiful shell. Thank you for walking so far to get me such a lovely gift.” The African student replied, solemnly, “The long walk is part of the gift.”
This season reminds us of God’s long walk in Jesus Christ. *** God’s love made manifest in the extreme gift of God with us. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, proclaim peace, bring good tidings. Who say to all — Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52: reminds us that the best is always before us. This personal walk is a part of the gift. This baby, born so humbly, will not remain docile and quiet in that manger, but will rise and grow, preach and teach, heal and restore, announce God’s peace and justice for all people; show us the way to live as kingdom people. How beautiful!! God is coming among us. The messenger of God’s love. God is born. Imagine the messenger’s beating heart. Imagine his being so out of breath that he can hardly contain the good news he carries. Imagine challenging our Christian community to carry that good news of God’s gift with that kind of intensity, and kind of Excitement.
As Luke’s Gospel leads us and the shepherds and wise men to the manger, John’s announcement of the birth of God points us to the reality and extent of God’s love – the real Word really becomes real flesh. God is born among us, with us, walking with us the long walk.
Here is the grand motif which John pours out in such glory. Not just for a moment, not a footnote in history, but from the beginning, in the beginning, this One who is born among us === “IS”. Now God among us!
This Logos, this Word, was with God, and was God, and is God. And in that Logos is light & life. Good news.
Words have such power among us. “Congratulations, it’s a girl.” “I love you.” Your husband has come thru surgery with flying colors; he will be fine.” “We would like to offer you a full-tuition scholarship.” “The test results look good.” With each message of good news, we give thanks, and we are grateful for the messenger.
Enter a new messenger, the baby in the feed trough, the server to 5000 of two fish and five barley loaves, the rabbi who held up sparrows and daisies as role models, who became a winemaker to save a wedding, who made fun of the establishment, who called himself living water and bread, who cried after his friend died. Enter Jesus, who was betrayed, who was tortured, who died alone and suffering, and who came back to us anyway. Jesus knew what it was to be alive in the world – to be hungry, to crave solitude, to have family problems, to be misunderstood, to hate hypocrisy and prejudice, to resist anger.
As John tells it, Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelled among us. He completely entered our reality, becoming subject to all human pain, pleasures, and confusions. Why did the Word become flesh? Maybe to show us that the human and divine, the physical and the spiritual, aren’t mutually exclusive. We are not eternally or presently separated from God. In Christ’s life, and in our life of discipleship, the fragile physical and the infinite spiritual empower & inform each other. And bring us closer to God and each other.
In a life that is listening for God, becomes communion and community, and this mysterious scripture and verse of John turns into song.
It is through entering into our flesh that Jesus reveals to us who God actually is, has been, and will be. And who we are! It is through plunging deeply into the reality of our existence that Jesus restores us to that for which God created us. It is in this most unlikely way, Jesus reveals God’s glory.
On this Christmas morning, amid the exhaustion and spending, on this side of all the preparation and attention, come to the quiet for a few moments and listen: perhaps you might hear the angels singing. And perhaps, even more . . . . Creation has lifted up its voice, the harps and trumpets blow a song of praise from every corner of God’s creation. All this, because the Lord comes – to judge the world, but to do so as an act of love and redemption.
John 1: 14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We now see his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The long walk – part of the gift.
At some point in time, though time does not exist for God, God must have asked, how shall I do this?
And up on a hill, from the direction of Bethlehem, there came the sound of a newborn baby’s cry.