Facets of Jesus’ Coming
In our scriptures today, there are different facets of the birth of Jesus– his coming among us. There are prophesies, such as we have from Isaiah. There is POETRY– the lyric account of Jesus at creation written by John. And then there is HISTORY– the birth narrative in Luke’s gospel. Like the many facets of a diamond, each one adds its view of the luster of the jewel that is Christ’s coming.
First, the facet of poetry: Today, in John’s gospel, we have a poetic creation that soars above even the most beautiful literature of the bible. A sermon can hardly do justice to this work of art, recorded by John. He knows that the Incarnation is about beginnings. Rather than giving us a chronicle of the Christmas story with the Holy family lodging in a stable, with angels and shepherds, John takes us back to the very beginning of time. Here is where we encounter Jesus, and Jesus is speaking the creation into being!
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus was the Logos, the Word. It can also be translated that Jesus was “the speaking.” By the speaking of the Word, all things came into a rational structure, a divine order that holds everything together. Many people today see the wonder of the world, the intricacy of nature, and the way that all things are inter-related as one whole, and they are convinced that the world is not a random happening that just fell into being. Instead, when we look at the marvels of nature, we see the handiwork of God. The bible, the inspired Word of God, tells us that the Word (Jesus) was in action bringing all things into being.
The Word was part of who God is. When John says that the word was “with” God, “with” carries the sense of being “face to face.” Many times, over the years, I have said that the three persons of God – the Trinity– are in a dynamic relationship—God creating, the Word speaking, and the Holy Spirit empowering this dynamic process. It is more than we can truly comprehend, or put into human words or concepts. God is mystery, and cannot be confined to our thoughts. But we human beings can appreciate the meaning of being “face to face” in a relationship. This is the nature of the persons of God from the beginning.
Since we are created in the image of God, we can find and see God in our face-to-face encounters. Do you see God in someone’s gracious smile upon you? God is there. Do you feel God present when eyes (perhaps your eyes) light up and gaze with compassion and understanding? Face to face, we can and do communicate that love. It’s God’s love.
Back to the text of John’s gospel… have we received Jesus as the creative Word? The gospel says, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
Dear church, we are distinct from the world who did not accept Jesus at his beginning. We are “those who received him, who believed in his name.” To us, he has given “the power to become children of God.”
At your baptism, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, brought you, as a child of God, into the community of the church. We hear these words, “Child of God, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever.” The trinity claims us for the church.
Now, let’s focus on another facet of Jesus’ coming, HISTORY, and the historical account of Jesus’ birth. It was done by God’s agenda, in God’s way, and in God’s timing. The journey to Bethlehem was made by the holy family, because they had an agenda; they were going to register for the census. God, however, had an additional agenda on their itinerary. According to the prophets, the birth of the Messiah would take place in Bethlehem, and so it came to pass, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, according to the ancient prophecies. When it’s God’s agenda, God calls us to participate.
I’ve had the experience of God calling me out of my own agenda into his (being led by God). Have you? It may be a whispering in the ear – to stop and pay attention to someone or something for more than a brief moment. It’s not unusual for me to set out in a specific direction, knowing where I’m going, and when I’m expected to arrive, and what I’ll do; in other words, left to my own devices, I usually don’t dawdle or get sidetracked. But it is often in the stopping and noticing that God nudges me to pay attention—for instance, speaking to strangers. I do this much more often now that I’m in Troy; I’m not only surrounded in the community– by people I don’t know, I am also trying to reach out with the intention of bringing the Good News of God’s love. These divine whispers are a way I can participate in God’s agenda. Do you hear a whisper to be led by God? Maybe you are being called into God’s agenda for you.
So, to summarize, from the writings of the John, if we think poetically, we encounter Jesus the Word, as the one who brought the cosmos into being. Out of great love, the Word is creating an expression from the divine hand (so to speak). “The speaking– Jesus”, is God, creating a dream for the salvation of the world. Jesus is the one who lives today, in our midst through the Holy Spirit, and he is the one who will bring creation to completion in the future
Or if we take the historical look from Luke’s gospel, we find the mother Mary and her spouse Joseph; hearing the whispers of God, and dreaming the dreams of God, they participate in parenting Jesus in the world; in history, we also see God creating– out of great love– a holy child, an expression from God’s own hand.
Let it be known by historical fact, and may it be celebrated in poetry:
Jesus is come. Merry Christmas dear church!
Rev Ann Marie Winters
December 26, 2021