Made Flesh (Reflection)
Lectionary Texts: John 1: 1-14
First United Methodist Church, Wharton
Sunday, December 25, 2016
So we’ve finally arrived. The shopping is done. The presents are wrapped. Most of the baking and cooking is at least nearing a stage of readiness. The waiting is over. Most years, we have a Christmas Eve service and then the poinsettias sit in a darkened sanctuary on Christmas Day. But this year, the calendar has given us a gift. We come together on this wonderful morning and hear the words of the Gospel writer known as John. And we are reminded that the Word, the very breath of God was always there—in the beginning and to the end. But we are told that on that first Christmas, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
- The Word Became Flesh
The Word became flesh. Think about it. God’s Spirit, God’s breath, the Hebrew language refers to it as ruah, the very essence and being of God was suddenly given flesh and bone and cartilage and hands and feet and all those very human things that we humans require to be here on earth. In other words, the Divine became human, if only for a while. That tells us that God does not desire a partner, or a relative, or a close friend. God desires to live with each of us as one of us. The miracle of Christmas is not just that God came, although that would be miracle enough. The miracle of Christmas is that God takes on flesh.
In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Eugene Peterson says that “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” That’s actually a little disconcerting when you think about it. That means that you’ll see God when you’re out walking your dog or getting your mail. It means that you’ll run into God in the grocery store when you’re in a terrible hurry and don’t have time. It means that God will show up at your door when the house is a wreck and you are least expecting visitors.
III. What Do You Do With God?
As the Scripture says, in the beginning was God and in the end will be God and in between? In between, God is with us. In between, God is one of us. That is the very mystery of Christmas. So what do we do then with a God who is with us? God is not limited to this sanctuary or to the places in our lives where we’ve sort of cleaned up a bit. God comes into place of darkness and places of light. God comes into profound poverty and into gated communities. God is with us every step of our lives. God is one of us in our flesh and our bone. God has moved in.
So, now it’s our move. I suppose we could just pick up the Christmas decorations and put them back in the box for another year. I suppose we could just go back to whatever we define as our normal lives. But the problem is that God is with us. God lives with us, here, in the neighborhood. Everywhere we turn, we will meet God—over and over and over again. And once you’ve met God, you can’t go back to the way it was before.
- The Problem With God
The problem with God is not that God comes at times that might be a little inconvenient for us; the problem with God is that never goes away. God is all over us. That first Christmas was God’s unveiling, God’s coming out of the darkness and the shadows and showing us what we could not see before. God poured the Divine into the lowliest of humanity, into a dirty animal stall, and began to pick us up so we could walk with God.
And we are asked to follow. We are asked to become something new. We are asked to now become the very reflection of the God that is here everywhere. Thomas Merton once said that “the Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ.” It’s Christmas. Now is the time.
This Fall we learned a new song by Marty Haugen called “Gather Us In”. I want you to listen to the words of the last verse again:
Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven light-years away,
But here in this place the new light is shining.
Now is the Kingdom, now is the day.
Gather us in and hold us forever, gather us in and make us your own;
Gather us in all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.
Now go into the neighborhood where God is and tell everyone that the Lord has come and invite them to come and see this thing that has happened!