Word Made Flesh
Christmas 1, John 1, “Word Made Flesh” by The Rev. Tracy Dugger
Merry Christmas. That's right we in the Episcopal Church are still celebrating Christmas. Christmas, or the Christ Mass is one Day, but there is also the season of Christmas, or the feast of the Nativity, also know as the feast of the incarnation. The many names for this season are designed to lead us deeper into our knowledge, understanding and love for God. Incarnation is a fancy word that derives its meaning from the same latin phrase which we get chili con carne. Carne, flesh, meat. The feast of the meatyness of God isn’t exactly a phrase that on the surface leads us deeper into adoration of God. But if we look beyond the most literal sense of the word, meaty can also mean heavy, weighty, dense and important. The density of meaning, and the importance of God’s taking on flash and dwelling among us is one reason why we celebrate this feast year after year. By repetition and prolonged pondering, we are invited deeper into Holy Mysteries. Christmas isn't just worthy of one day but gets 12, 12 days of Christmas that begin on December 25th and continue through the epiphany of January 6th.
Now throughout this Christmas season, we also have other feasts and celebrations. Since we gathered last on Christmas, the church has also commemorated the martyrdom of saint Stephen, the apostle John, and the feast of the Holy Innocents. In the scope of just a few days we have commemorated Stephen who died for the faith. John who gave us forever the gospel account of Christ, and we commemorated all of the babes of Bethlehem who were boys, 2 and younger who Herod had killed. Herod killed these boys for the sake of wiping out the message and the hope of the Future King Jesus Christ. The Christmas season therefore is a season of light and joy in the midst of human struggle, suffering, and the consequences of a broken world.
The bright and shiny Joy of Christmas means nothing if we as Christians cannot also maintain that joy and hope in the face of our presents struggles. For the struggles that we face in this world: political corruption, injustice, poverty, famine, disaster and death, these sufferings are nothing new. And indeed, they are a part of the good news of the joy of the incarnation. The good news is that God consents to come among us to diminish Himself for our sake.
To come into humanity to be vulnerable to suffer earn to die. This is the faith that we profess. It's the faith that Christians and Hebrews have professed since the beginning. A faith that believes in a messiah, one who saves.
Last week we studied how Matthew's genealogy and birth narrative harkened back to the birth of all things in Genesis and identifies Jesus as the Messiah, of the family line of David. The promised King who would set all things to right. After pausing at the creche, rejoicing at the miracle of Jesus’s birth, and accepting the invitation to come and let us adore him, we are once again invited to zoom out and look at the big picture.
In the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, according to John, we are given a cosmic perspective. We aren't just brought back to the beginning of time. We are invited to step outside time itself, and catch a glimpse of the uncreated co-equal and co-eternal God. We hear of the Divine Word who was with God and was God. We hear that all creation, and all created things find their Genesis and beginning in the WORD. All life itself is begun in the Word. Not one thing came into being apart from the Word.
Many of us gloss over this sentence "all things came into being through him and without him not one thing came to be." But I want us to pause here for a bit and think about that. There are enormous ramifications to the statement, “all created things find their route in God.” Some people take a universalist approach to this statement’s meaning, and then say, “if all things are rooted in God, then all things are good,” but this is not the faith handed down to us.
We know that the world is a place that contains both good and evil. So, if God in the Word created all things, “does that mean that God created evil and suffering?” Now this was a topic that we covered for hours and weeks in my apologetics and philosophy of religions classes. We spoke at length about the problem of evil. Because the existence of evil is the obstacle to faith in a good and loving God for many people. Now I’m going to give you the cliff notes version here. Centuries of Christian thought boil down to this: evil and the enemy cannot create. Evil can only take what already exists for good and pervert it, distort it for dark purposes, or diminish its capacity for good.
Sometimes enticement to continue sinning isn’t about us losing salvation. The enemy is often content merely to diminish the integrity of our witness. The evil one is limited to using and abusing creation for destructive purposes... But no matter how deep the distortion goes some element of good remains...In the Christian faith we profess that no one and nothing is beyond the reach of restoration. No one is beyond the saving grace of Christ. If they would choose to embrace it. The light continues to shine in the darkness and the dark cannot overcome it.
We know that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The radicalness of the Christian faith is that we stand contrary to Plato and other philosophers, that taught that flesh was weak, and pleasure only led to excess and decay. We are people who accept God’s declaration of creation as good, and in Him our God and Creator there are pleasures forevermore. And contrary to the stoics and Eastern religions of the world we say that the world is not merely an emanation of God or a continuation of God. There is separation between the Divine and creation, and yet, that separation, that Transcendence, is bridged in Christ. The word made flesh and dwelt among us tells us that the God of the universe cared so much for his very good creation humankind. That God sent his son to become human so that humans could once again become more like God. For in the beginning we were created in the image of God, and we walked with Him, at one with one another and one with God. And in Christ making all things new, that Imago dei, that indelible and indestructible likeness to God is restored. God is indeed transcendent, and above all things, but in Christ God comes down to earth. It is revealed that God is not aloof or uncaring. This God engages the world in love.
The existence and persistence of evil in the world reveals that our God is not a micromanager. Our God is one who seeks relationship, not dominance through control. God sends the true light to enlighten the world once again. And we who receive him, who believe him, who love him, we are given power. Power to by the Holy Spirit cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light... Beloved in this Christmas season know who you are. Receive the light of Christ. Walk as a child of the light and know Christ the word made flesh, and through him cast off every distortion that paints God as distant or uncaring, indifferent or cold. Because Christ came a dwelled among us, we can once again walk intimately with God. Let’s not forsake this high privilege, but let us make vows to spend time with the one who came to save.
May the light of our inherited hope in Christ shine bright this season. Feed on him, and the Holy Mystery of the Incarnation in your hearts, and shine the light of our Lord Jesus Christ forth into your heart, into your home, into your family, into your community, into your jobs in your workplaces, into the city of Port St Lucie, and into the world. Come Lord Jesus our Emmanuel be the light of God with us. Shine your light into our hearts, and may our hearts shine your light into the world. Amen.