Happy New Year! A happy and blessed 2021 to all of you gathered here today by the Holy Spirit via this livestream.
What a year 2020 has been, right? It has been a year of disruption, sure, but if nothing else it has been a year of surprises. I bet you didn’t think we could even survive as a church this way! Well, as Pastor Krey has mentioned, we are more than surviving. Through the generosity of your spiritual practices of giving, of worship and prayer, St Andrew’s begins 2021 not only with financial health, but in strong faith and hope as well. And we can only acknowledge these as gifts from God’s Holy Spirit.
As I’ve been reviewing this year, I have to admit, because everything is recorded now, I went back on Facebook and watched some of my old sermons. Like a coach has their team watch recordings of old games, I guess, to find weaknesses and strengths. And if you too have been paying attention to my sometimes-out-here sermons during this year of pandemic you might have noticed a common thread. A thread summed up by our readings this morning, on this Second Sunday after Christmas.
John chapter one and Ephesians chapter one are about the “Incarnation.” The en-fleshment. The touch-ability, there here-and-now-ness of God. But this being-born-ness of God is more than God pulling the emergency brake on a sinful creation. (Sinful though it may be.)
There is a cosmic element, a wholeness, to the incarnation as we read about it in John and Ephesians. God is made flesh in Christ, but Christ is not only a blood sacrifice that an angry God slaughters on the altar of sin to make things right. And it’s more than a bearded, brown-eyed teacher-Jesus with a good heart and good intentions. Something bigger, something grander has taken place, and continues to take place, in Christ! And a “Cosmic Christ” is most certainly, first and foremost, a Christmas Christ.
The first few verses of John’s Gospel as well as Paul’s reflections in his letter to the Ephesians what I call a “cosmic” element, I think, clearer: In the beginning was the Word. Here, John intentionally uses the language found in Genesis, the very first book of the Old Testament: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. This is foundational stuff.
Now, the word “Word” is multi-layered, multi-faceted in Greek. It means a verbal expression or utterance, a literal “word,” but it can mean: taking account or reckoning, or measure, as in the measure of old age, or to consider, it can mean theory or idea, it can mean an explanation. It can mean reason or ratio or rationality itself. I must give credit to the Franciscan monk Richard Rohr who translates this Greek word as “Blueprint.”
The Blueprint of Creation: In the beginning was the Blueprint, and the Blueprint was with God, and the Blueprint was God. The Blueprint was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Blueprint, and without the Blueprint not one thing came into being. What has come into being in the Blueprint was life, and the life was the light of all people.
And this Blueprint, Ephesians tells us too, is Christ. Christ was before the foundation of the world, Paul writes.
Jesus, we know, we believe, was a human being. Though his conception our Tradition calls miraculous—we just celebrated his very ordinary, if tragic, birth to a real human woman named Mary. Jesus, we know, walked and breathed and cried. Jesus, we know, suffered and died and was buried. These things are all marks of his “flesh.” The proof, the seal, that his Blueprint takes on real form.
Whatever, therefore, we say about Jesus as Scripture tells us, we are saying about God—we know is Christ. You know: humble yet righteous; meek yet all powerful; kind, merciful, just, patient, forgiving… and ultimate.
But this is not all, according to John. It’s not just a wow-story about how God is nice. John writes: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” The Blueprint applies to all of creation. You & me, and trees & bees, and stars & cars… Mitch McConnel & Nancy Pelosi and everything else.
Paul writes, that in Christ, “[God] has made known to us the mystery of [God’s] will, according to God’s good pleasure that God set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” The Word becoming Flesh is not just God changing God’s mind about sin. The Word becoming Flesh, as I mentioned a few Sundays ago, is the center of all things, the center of all time, all space.
Because it is the foundation of all time and space. He was in the beginning with God. He is God.
The mystery of God’s mind made known.
God comes. God is with us, Emmanuel, we say, our Christmas joy. But this, according to Paul and John, is a two-way cosmic road of Christ. God comes to us, yes. But God also, in Christ, in this Blueprint of all the universe, brings us to God. Paul again: “…a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him…”
And brings us not just into God’s presence to kneel and grovel like worms, but adopts us—births us again by the Spirit—as God’s children. John writes, “…to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” And Paul explains that God, “destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will…”
We are in the family. And this is the strange kind of sweet and sour, hot and cold, big and small paradox of our Cosmic Christ. Christ the Blueprint we can say is the cosmic author of everything, from solar flares to amino acids, from child-birth to blue whales, old growth forests and cities with skyscrapers. Christ the Blueprint also is about family and all that comes with family: intimacy & love—rules & boundaries, disappointment & forgiveness.
Christ makes us children to God. And Christ makes us siblings, therefore, to each other. Christ even makes us siblings to all other things, including stars, whales, and political enemies. In order for us to be part of this family our mistakes must be washed away, yes.
Christmas is the starting point of the forgiveness of our sins. Can’t kill a sacrifice until the animal is born, you could say. Can’t crucify God unless God has a body. Paul writes, “In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Why do we receive redemption? Why are our trespasses forgiven in the first place? Why is grace lavished on us? So that we can, in Christ, receive an inheritance, what is ours because of our family connection to God. Or, as John puts it: “From Christ’s fullness we have all received grace upon grace. While the law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
This is not an “us and them” statement. Saying that Christians are right, American Christians are right, to be exact, and only we go to heaven. It is saying that Jesus Christ is creation: self-giving love, mercy, connection, health & life, is all creation’s Blueprint. In Christ, and through the power of trusting that Christ is the Blueprint (a power that is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit) we can see and touch the hopeful and joyful truth that all things, all people, all creation is linked in harmony.
It might be a harmony we don’t individually understand, that we can’t see most of the time, that we don’t want to see. But it is a harmony that we confess and proclaim as the Church: in Christ all is one.