Last night we celebrated the birth of Jesus. We heard the story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem where he was born. We heard the angels sing and the shepherds making known what had been told them, and then glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Last night was all about the newborn babe lying in a manger. And although it wasn't explicitly stated in last night's story, we know that story is part of a larger story of the incarnation. In that overall story we recalled the Advent “already” of the first appearing of the Son of God as a newborn baby.
So while last night was all about baby Jesus, today we go deeper.
If we believe that Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, if we believe that her child was holy, if we believe the child is the Son of God, then this leads us to the conclusion that this incarnational event was the very essence of God taking the form of a human being.
This was not a man who was infused or taken over by the Spirit of God at some defined point in his life, such as his baptism. This was not God donning an Edgar suit to pass as a human. This was the very substance of God uniting with the very substance of a human being in such a way that neither substance was diminished, but both substances existed in unity of person, fully human and fully divine. This is the mystery of the incarnation.
If we hold to the truth of that incarnational mystery, fully human and fully divine, we are led to the position that Jesus, as having fully divine substance, is the Second Person of the Trinity; that he is indeed God from God. That person speaks not only on behalf of God, but as God. He is the Word, and that Word was, is, and ever shall be, God.
Christmas Day allows us to reflect on the event – or events – of Christmas Eve. I would argue that Christmas Day is to Christmas Eve what the Second Sunday of Easter is to the Easter Vigil.
The Easter Vigil is one of the most liturgically complex services we have, culminating in the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Christmas Eve is also liturgically complex and revolves around the birth of Jesus. Then Easter 2 comes around, attendance drops, and we ALWAYS hear the story of Thomas and the proclamation, “My Lord and my God.” Likewise, Christmas Day comes around, attendance drops, and we ALWAYS hear, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Easter 2 moves Thomas from a disciple of Jesus to a follower of Christ. Christmas Day moves us from celebrating the birth of Jesus to proclaiming the eternal substance of Christ. As the resurrected Christ allowed the disciples to move to a new understanding of who he was, the eternal Son proclaimed in John's prologue allows us to move to a new or deeper understanding of who Christ is.
In the darkness, chaos, and lack of life that was in the beginning, God spoke. The Word that was with God, and was God, poured out into the nothingness that was and spoke all things into being. The darkness which was, was no more as the light of life burst forth.
But light can be a funny thing. We get used to the dark. Our eyes adjust to the dark and we think we can see perfectly fine, even though we sometimes stumble. We are comfortable with it because we can hide things we don't want others to see. But when the light comes on unexpectedly, we cover our eyes, or shout, “Turn it off!” Sometimes we would rather stay in the dark.
The light of God, the light of Christ, shines in the dark, removing our hiding places, shining in places we don't want seen, sometimes blinding us and causing us to ask for it to be taken away.
This light that shines in the darkness, this light of Christ, is given to us to illumine our path. The darkness will not overcome the light – but we can choose to hide from it or work to lessen it. When we choose worldly power over godly power, we block the light just a little. When we choose selfish desires over holy longings, we block the light just a little. The light will never go out, we are just doing our best to put up curtains in an attempt to block it out.
When we choose to pursue the light, when we choose to let the light overtake us, then we begin to live into his will. It will take some adjusting as we move from dark to light. We might be blinded occasionally, but in the end we will be filled with grace and truth.
This is where Christmas Day takes us: from the birth of Jesus to Mary and lying in a manger, to the understanding and proclamation that this newborn babe is the Word of God, eternal and everlasting, from before the worlds began until the ending, evermore and evermore.
Today reminds us that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Let us not lose one for the other, but proclaim him both son of Mary and My Lord and My God. And may we never shy away from the light in his glory.
Amen and Merry Christmas