How many of you have had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon? I grew up in Western Colorado, and even as a child I was overwhelmed by many spectacular sights of Gods pristine creation. Has anyone ever been to the Black Canyon near Gunnison, Colorado? If you want to see a picture of the Black Canyon, there’s one on my printed sermon on the table in the back. Times of fishing and hiking Grand Mesa in Western Colorado, the longest flat-topped mountain in the world, with over 300 natural lakes was my playground growing up, fishing, hiking and enjoying Gods handiwork, but not really appreciating how fantastic that was until years later.
A few years ago, we were at a family reunion in Breckenridge, Colorado. I remember is was on a sunny day, but a little chilly, and with the sunny sky above it started to snow, and then I remembered growing up and observing that it could snow when the sun was shining. It gave me pause. I’m sure you all have also observed things in extraordinary beauty in nature that gives you pause, right? I believe that many of the most spiritual moments in life can be attributed to the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.
Jesus is what it means to be a human being, fully alive, from God’s perspective. Jesus was a person that came into the world in the middle of a family of loving parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and a community that loved and followed the First Testament traditions and the God of the Bible. He was trained like all children that fire can burn you, to be careful around cliffs, rivers and other things that we all learn in childhood development. However, it might have been detrimental to his younger brothers and sisters. I can just imagine that Mary or Joseph would sometimes think or say: “Why can’t you behave and be more like Jesus”?
Not only does Jesus come to live among us and give us the opportunity to identify with someone that has seen God face to face. It does not matter how spiritual you are or how smart you are, you and I have never seen God face to face. But, the message to us at Christmas is this: God has sent Jesus to share how much we are loved, and that love is demonstrated in the life and teachings of Jesus. We are called to receive this love, and to practice this love among us in the same way that God loves us. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone that knows God, loves God, and he that doe not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8) God’s Word became flesh. You hear me say often that in the Bible there is a theme that we can know God, but we can never know him like we want to know God. God will always in some ways be the God of Unknowing. But, in Jesus, the God of Unknowing becomes known to us, and we become known to God..
The Latin word for “becoming flesh” is Incarnation. We celebrate this Incarnation, “God becoming flesh”, for the entire season of Christmas, 12 days. Monday night, we celebrated a mass on Christmas Eve. On Tuesday there was a service on Christmas morning. Today is the first Sunday of Christmas, the 6th day of Christmas. Next Saturday will be the 12th Day of Christmas, and Sunday, January 6 will be the first day of the season of Epiphany. It is in this power of Jesus love that we joyfully celebrate the coming of Jesus into our world, year around.
We don’t worship creeds. We do not worship the altar. We do not worship the cross or the Written Word. We worship God, though Jesus, and through this relationship we are purified and made whole. We do not earn this gift. It is a free gift of love. The written Word points us to the Living Word, just as the Nicene and Apostles Creed point us to Jesus, but the love of God is freely given. Jesus instructed his disciples with these words: Freely you have received from me; so, freely give. (Matthew 10:8)
God’s magnificent creation also included human beings! In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. And, then we are told that He came to be with us, human beings, to live among us.To dwell where we dwell, to go through the pain and suffering as a friend, and to rejoice with us when we are joyful. To encourage us when we fall. To pick us up and dust us off, just as you would do with the children you love. And, to laugh with us when we are happy, and to cry with us when we are sorrowful. As the Psalmist shares love for creation and including humans as a part of that creation.
He heals the brokenhearted.
And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars
And calls them all by their names. (Psalm 147:3-4)