a sermon for the 1st Sunday After Christmas
Before there was Original Sin, there was Original Love.
In the beginning was the Word,
In the beginning when God began to create the heavens and the earth,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep while a spirit from God swept over the face of the waters.
He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.
Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.
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.
And God saw that the light was good.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 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.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. And God blessed them.
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
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
(This reading of John 1 and Genesis 1 comes from The Rev. David L. Hansen http://revdavidh.blogspot.com/2013/12/christmas-eve-candlelight-reading.html)
In the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street,” a bright and precocious girl, played by a young Natalie Wood, struggles when she is confronted by two different ways of understanding the world. She was taught by her mother that the only way live was to confront the world head on, using her intellect to gather the facts of a situation and then reasoning out the best way to move forward. There is no magic in the world, everything has a cause and effect. One day, she meets a man named Kris Kringle, who tells her that there all kinds of nations in the world – the French Nation, the Swedish nation, and the imagination.
During our the Christmas Eve services we always hear the Christmas story from an eyewitness point of view as found of the Gospel of Luke: the star and the angels, the shepherds, and of course Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. It is the story that we keep hearing in every Christmas carol, and see in every Christmas play. It is a beautiful story about the birth of Jesus, the savior and redeemer of the world.
But in this morning’s Gospel reading we hear the story from a different point of view, God’s point of view. We hear how God, who loved us long before the beginning of time chose to live among us because he loved us. God loved us even before he created us, when the earth was nothing but a formless void. In the beginning, before anything ever was, God was working on our behalf through his divine Word. And God’s Word became flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is the wondrous mystery of the Incarnation – that God’s love for us is so profound, that it transcends time and space. That God’s love for us is so deep, that God came to live among us in human form. That God’s love for us is so incredibly powerful, that it cannot be extinguished by darkness, even the darkness of death and the grave. The wondrous mystery of God’s incarnation means that Christ existed long before we took our first steps in the Garden, and long before we took a bite out of that first apple. It means that before there was ever Original Sin, God conceived us in Original Love.
But as wondrous and amazing as this version of the Christmas story is, the Incarnation means even more. In the fourth century, one of the greatest teachers of the Church, Athanasius, wrote, “God became human so that we might become God.” Christ was born so that God’s love might be revealed to us in ways we could never imagine – not just in some ethereal, spiritual way, but through a real, flesh and blood kind of love. Christ was born so that we might know God as one who lives with the outcasts and sinners, and who suffers and dies in agony on a cross, and who forgives his friends and fixes breakfast for them the morning after his resurrection. In Christ, God came broke into our human world so that our relationship with God might be changed forever, so that we might become children of God.
The mystery of the Incarnation is not about the human actors of the story – not about Mary and Joseph, nor the shepherds and the angels – but about God in Jesus Christ, God’s divine Word. Christ is the enfleshment of God’s Word – God’s wisdom and creative power. This is the most wondrous gift of all: the gift of God’s Imagination, living and breathing and working beside us. God comes to us this day, so that we may be forever filled by God’s Original Love.
Thanks be to God.