A sermon for Christmas 1
Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7, John 1:1-18, Psalm 147 or 147:13-21
I don’t remember when it was last week, I realized I was preaching today. In the 20 years I’ve been a priest, my family and I have traditionally taken the week after Christmas off, most often to visit family. Since 1994 I’ve preached this day six times; that our family status has changed is revealed that of those 6, 3 have been since 2011. None of which has anything to do with anything except bible verses less often preached are both more difficult, because preachers are not as familiar with them, and more available to flashes of insight, because preachers are not as familiar with them. So the thought of today being “the celebration of Jesus 2nd birth” stuck.
And yes, I said Jesus second birth, not his second birthday. But actually today would not be the celebration of Jesus second birth it would actually be the celebration of Jesus 1st birth, because it happens before creation, and the Christmas event is clearly after creation. Except that Jesus isn’t born the first time, so much as Jesus just is the first time.
Confused? Don’t be alarmed, you are not alone. From the beginning there was confusion about Jesus. Is Jesus human? He has a human mother. But, Jesus also has a divine father, so is Jesus divine? The debate got so contentious that in 325 the council of Nicaea was called to settle the question. We know their work as the Nicene Creed. A second council, in Constantinople in 381 was necessary to affirm the church’s belief. And there is truth to the observation, we are still arguing about Jesus’ humanity and or divinity today.
If we look around at all the Nativity scenes it looks as if we are celebrating the humanity of Jesus, all the baby Jesuses look just like any other baby. And there is deep truth to this observation, for Jesus is completely human, which makes him unique among the stories of gods who often appear in human form, but are never truly human. And I think for the most part we are comfortable with Jesus in human form. Almost all the bible stories are of Jesus as fully human. All the miracles, and teachings are accomplished by Jesus whom the witnesses knew as human, though gifted, even divinely gifted.
I’m not sure we spend a whole lot of time with Jesus – divine. It’s hard to do, in part because there is no sensual reference. I am sure it is important that we pay attention to Jesus – divine. In part because it reminds us Jesus is not a super human, but the very presence of God, which reveals the depth of God’s commitment to us. God cares enough, not just to send a representative, but to be personally present. What do you appreciate more: a call from your boss’s secretary, with message of appreciation, or a call from your boss with a message of appreciation? Secondly, knowing that Jesus is God’s self eliminates the difficulty of God sacrificing a son; God sacrifices God’s self. This is another measure of God’s commitment to us.
A final note of all this may be that today we celebrate Jesus’ being day. Jesus – divine just is, like God always was, always is, always will be. As much as we understand the verbs, complete understanding eludes us. Even if you are able to get your head around the billions of years our universe has been, which is more than I can do, getting our heads around essence prior to, though, and afterwards, … well like I said, it’s beyond me. That; however, is not a comment about its truth.
Truths can come to us by experience, and or experience(s) passed onto us. Truth can also come to us by revelation, and or revelation(s) passed on to us. The presence of God to Abram’s is a revelation. The biblical account of Abram’s revelation is passed on to us. Both are truth, not from any empirical source, but simply because we believe, or we have faith. Put it another way, we trust the revelations passed on to us, just as our forebearers trusted their experience of divine revelation.
So, today is our celebration of Jesus’ being day. A day we celebrate Jesus – divine, a revelation of Jesus’ love for me, for you, for all humanity, for all creation; which makes me worthy, makes you worthy, makes all humanity worthy, makes all creation worthy. See it doesn’t matter that I or you or they love Jesus, human or divine. What matter is Jesus, human and divine, loves me, loves you, love everyone, loves all creation. And that establishes our relationship with each other, with all of God’s image bearers, with all of creation; not just for today, but every hour of every day now and forever.
So, happy second, no happy first birth…, no happy being day; oh, I just thankful Jesus, human and divine, love us all.