January 5, 2014 by Ken Dale
One of the great disappointments for me last month with all the cancelations from storms was missing the opportunity in confirmation class just before Christmas to consider the Christian understanding that Jesus was both human and divine.? In the lesson for that topic the participants learn about the two candles on the table beneath the cross that are lit at the beginning of the worship service.? One is for the humanity of Jesus and the other for the divinity.? I have always found this pretty powerful in the life of faith.? I love the way it is captured in the metaphors of John?s gospel as we have heard it this morning.
It is, hopefully, a familiar passage for us.? The Word which was with God and was God becomes flesh and dwells among us.? But isn?t it interesting that John?s adds in verses 10 and following: 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.? Another way to see that might be to consider that Jesus came home ? but it was not a Hallmark moment, nor was it to a cup of Folgers coffee.? But we?re not talking of just a homecoming ? we?re talking about God.? John says that no one has ever seen God ? which is to say that the nature of God is to be distant, elusive, and incomprehensible.? That may well be true until Christmas when we celebrate the miracle that God took the initiative and self-revealed in the life of this Jesus of Nazareth.? And what a strange story it is.? God self-revealed, was incarnate, in an embarrassing pregnancy, a poor peasant couple forced to become refuges in Egypt soon after the birth of their baby, King Herod?s slaughter of the Jewish boy babies in a vain attempt to put an end to this new ?King.?
The baby grows into a man who avoids the powerful and the prestigious and goes to the poor and dispossessed and who is rejected by many of the very people he came to save.? God self-reveals in a human being born in a human family, attended parties (accused of being a glutton and drunkard by his critics), moved constantly around the area of Galilee, ran afoul of the governmental and religious authorities, taught about the realm of God through pithy stories we call parables, did a number of surprising and inexplicable ?signs and wonders? and was eventually tortured to death in a horribly cruel form of punishment which the Romans used against troublesome Jews and religious troublemakers.? Then of course the story continues with the Easter event and all that followed.
God self-reveals in the life of Jesus and yet we failed to comprehend who he really was.? Reasons?? Perhaps people were and still are too caught up in their day to day lives to look, listen, or seek that transforming power and renewing love.? Jesus did say at one point ? ?seek and you will find???? Perhaps because he didn?t meet their expectations ? after all his understanding and example of greatness was in sharp contrast to the world in which he lived ? imagine, ?greatest of all is servant of all.?? But in our proclamation at Christmas we do say that in this person Jesus is Emmanuel ? God with us.? And if we look at how he lived and listen to what he spoke as well as the example of his life ? we do get an image of God.? God?s people were forbidden from making an image of the living God ? so the living God graciously gave us an image of God.
Scripture is testimony to the reality of God with us in Christ.? Scripture is not God ? not the reality ? not the real thing ? but it is a reliable witness.? I think this passage from John this morning is alive ? it really speaks to me in such a way that I experience it ? and I know that goes way back to my study of that gospel with Burt Throckmorton in seminary.? I found a really meaningful illustration that I hope speaks to you as well ? and maybe challenges you in some way.? C.S. Lewis meditates upon the reality of scripture?s ability to point us to the truth of God ? and? I hope God with us.
Lewis remembers after giving a talk one time on the way something like scriptre can point us to a bigger reality like God.? He writes: ??an old hard bitten officer got up and said, ?I?ve no use for all that stuff.? But, mind you, I?m a religious man too.? I know there?s a God.? I?ve felt [God]: out alone in the desert at night; the tremendous mystery.?? And that?s just why I don?t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about [God].? To anyone who?s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!
Lewis continues:? Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man.? I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert.? And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real.? In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper.? But here comes the point.? The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it.? In the first place, it is based on what hundreds of thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic.? In that way, it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours should be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.? In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.? As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map.? But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.? (From Mere Christianity)
So of course ? all I want to do is get you thinking ? about faith ? and about Christmas and what the map of Scripture ? specifically that in Jesus God became human and dwelt among us ? specifically that Jesus was fully human and fully God ? what does that map point to for you in terms of a living faith ? what difference does the true meaning of Christmas make in your life?