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December 24, 2015

Entangling the Divine with the Human

John’s prologue is one of the most beautiful, poetic descriptions of the incarnation. It describes the light that overcomes darkness, the life of all, the word made flesh, Jesus fully human and fully divine. John’s beginning point is not like Matthew’s, whose Gospel begins with a straight forward genealogy, or Luke’s describing the details leading up to Jesus’ birth, or Mark, whose starting point is the baptism of Jesus. John’s gospel begins like the book of Genesis, with poetic language that reaches to the source of all that is, and stretches to the farthest reaches of the cosmos, extending Gods’ grace upon grace to all. This text presents this preacher with a conundrum. What can one say?  How does one proclaim a text that proclaims itself? The word became flesh, not more words, which preachers are so good with dispensing.
In my college choir we performed a choral work based on this text. The piece ended with these words, “and the Word became flesh”. We over-enunciated the F, L and SH sounds, giving them their full due. This is the kind of singing that produces spit!  We sang in unison, then broke into beautiful parts on the world flesh. Then every voice, all 80 of us, chose a pitch, and moved off on our own singing the word Gloria, ending the piece with a terrible, ugly blast. Listeners experienced a discordant explosion of sound. It was as if we were singing particles that broke off and splintered — going in every direction. Those sitting in the audience were shocked. I would guess some were not at all pleased we didn’t end with a pleasant resolving chord. Some listeners were most likely scared and may have felt assaulted by the explosive music.

But that’s the word I want to somehow preach. That’s the sound I want you to hear — a blast that shatters and hits us with the far-reaching implications of God become flesh, entangling the divine with the human.  That choral blast of splintering “Gloria’s” followed the five words that change everything: “and the word became flesh”. That wall of sound opens our imaginations to the depth, intensity, and pursuit of God’s love for the world.

Dietrich Bonheoffer’s words help: “We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.  Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. We are no longer alone, God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved into us.”

When the world was dark and the city was quiet, God came. God, surprising, shocking, comforting, disrupting, crept in beside us. Do the same this Christmas, Jesus, do the same this Christmas.

Pastor Mary

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