December 24, 2020
Who are you, God, she asked,
And God replied: “I Am. I am who I am.”
“I am the origin of all life. I am the energy that drives everything in the universe. I am love.” Tonight, we celebrate two incarnations. The first took place somewhere around 13.7 billion years ago when God shared God’s self with the whole of creation. The book of Genesis describes it in this way:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
Richard Rohr, reflecting on Franciscan spirituality remarks that Christ is not just Jesus’ last name. He writes: “I want to suggest that the first incarnation was the moment described in Genesis I, when God joined in unity with the physical universe and became the light inside of everything.” He is suggesting that the Christ is God’s presence among us from the very beginning. The Christ figure is not limited to the human person of Jesus but rather “Everything visible, without exception, is the outpouring of God.” The Christ is God’s plan from the very beginning. The Christ is God with us with us from the outset of creation.. Another way I have found helpful to think about this is that we have God’s DNA in us. Why did God create us in first place – was it not to share life and love?
The gospel of John picks up on this theme in its opening – a passage I have always loved.
“In the beginning there was the Word: the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. The Word was present to God from the beginning. Through the Word all things came into being, and apart from the Word nothing came into being. In the Word was life, and that life was humanity’s light – a Light that shines in the darkness, a Light that the darkness has never overtaken.”
Word, Light, the Christ – all descriptions of God’s presence from the very beginning. God spoke, it came to be, and God saw that ii was good. This is God’s first incarnation into our world.
But that was not enough to satisfy God’s love for us. Tonight’s first reading from Isaiah says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Going back again to John’s gospel, he announces: “And the Word became flesh and made a dwelling among us.” God has chosen to enter even more deeply into our humanity, living as we live, a helpless baby, growing, learning, playing, dancing, teaching, walking the desert paths of Israel. Through Jesus, God shared our emotions, our frustrations, our hopes and dreams, and our suffering. God knows and understands our loneliness, our joys, our sorrows, our temptations, our moments of peacefulness and surrender through the experiences of the human person of Jesus.
Richard Rohr writes:
“We do not need to be afraid of the depths and breadths of our own lives, of what this world offers us or asks of us. We are given permission to become intimate with our own experiences, learn from them, and allow ourselves to descend to the depth of things, even our mistakes, before we try to quickly to transcend it all in the name of some idealized purity or superiority. God hides in the depths and is not seen as long as we stay on the surface of anything – even the depths of our sins.”
It is this second incarnation that we celebrate this night in the midst of intense suffering all around us. For many it is truly a night of darkness. Some will experience loneliness and mourn the loss of loved ones this Christmas. Some will be very sick or dying, perhaps at this very moment. Many will be bone-weary in their attempts to care for the sick and save lives. Parents will be separated from their children and refugees crushed together in unhealthy camps. The homeless may be shivering in the cold. Others may be wondering if they will find food for their family. It will not be a happy time for many people. And yet, we have hope. It was the very poor and suffering that Jesus sought out. Our God has not forgotten this planet, this people, this blossoming of divine creation. Emanuel, “God with us” is in our midst, in our very DNA, in our minds and hearts. With the angel we can say:
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: that you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Who are you, God, she asked?
And God said: “I am. I am who I am.
In you, God, a light will shine in our darkness.
In you, God, we will find love.
In you, God, we will discover who we truly are.
In you, God, we will find peace.