Nine Lessons. Wow.
What can we make of all this?
Do you all know the difference between MICRO and MACRO?
Micro refers to small things. And “maacro” refers to small things in the South. Actually, at either end of the universe, either the subatomic-end or the intergalactic-end, quite a few physicists believe they can see the face of God.
Well, today’s nine lessons form a kind of nine-element macro-scope that allows us to see the big picture in the events surrounding the birth of a small baby. A macro-scope by which to understand why it is God chose to be born into the same world we inhabit. To be born as we were born. To be born as one of us.
Here’s what I see in the lenses of this nine-part macroscope of Holy Scripture.
Through lens one, we begin with a little self-recognition. Our human nature is complex. But even so, we see here that we are basically animals—animals with a serious attitude. But unlike animals, except cats of course, we have and always will disobey God’s will for us and for the whole world. Which is why Adam and Eve are not merely our ancestors, they are ourselves. They are not only our prototype, they are the archetype of us all.
Through lens two, we see that we have the potential to seek, love and serve God with all our heart, and with all our mind, and with all our soul; and we have it within us, at all times, to do right, walk humbly, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Which is why, especially to those of us of non-Hebrew origin, Abraham and Sarah are not our physical ancestors at all; but more importantly, they are the models of abiding faithfulness in an ultimately real, ultimately challenging and ultimately uncontainable God.
Through lenses three and four, we find the prophets—who have revealed to humanity the mind of God, showing us that God’s creation is not a past event, but an ongoing action. God is not the remote watchmaker of Thomas Jefferson, but the intimately involved, intimately present God who comes to us, to be with us, to be among us, to abide with us.
In lens five, we see that in the womb of Mary, this abiding presence of God took human form.
Lenses six and seven show that it was into a world ruled by the mighty, and served by the poor, that this human form of God breathed his first breath, as a tiny child. A tiny child whose holiness would be perceived first not by the mighty, but by the meek.
Lens eight shows that the hymn We Three Kings might have been more aptly titled We Three Mystics. For there is no doubt that the way we see the face of Jesus in the children of God is a mystical kind of seeing. It is a kind of seeing which believes that there is more than meets the eye in this world of ours. God is both visible and invisible. God is hidden to one way of looking, and painted in bright colors to another way of looking. Christians have no secrets. Christians believe that the ways of God are open for all who seek them by the bright-shining star of Holy Wisdom.
And finally, we look through the macroscopic lens of dear John. If you are watching football later today, you’ll probably catch sight of a placard in the stands which says simply, John 3.16. That of course is the verse, “For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son that all who believe in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” Well, that is perhaps the best brief distillation of the Good News. But the first 14 verses of John’s Gospel are my favorite lines in the whole Bible. For me, as a seeker, a thinker, and a man convinced of the deep mysteriousness of this Universe, these lines serve as a continuously inspiring insight into what the Incarnation of God in Christ really means. When anyone asks me, “How can God be in two places at one time?” or “How can God have been human?” or any of the key questions about the nature of God, Christ and the Incarnation, I simply say, it’s a holy mystery. I don’t know. But I love what I find in John. It helps me to believe in what I cannot begin to understand.
Which leads me to what I say about Jesus. Why do we need this Son of God? Because Jesus offers us a hands-on approach to our relationship with a God we cannot even begin to understand. The historical reality of Jesus shows us that God is not remote, but intimate. The mysteries around Jesus’ life, death and resurrection speak not to his unreality, but rather to the fuller reality of things which at the ultimate level seem unbelievable, unknowable, and vastly mysterious to us.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. He made him known as a God who is principally concerned with us, and who wants us to be principally concerned with him. He came not to overpower us, but to empower us. To serve, not to be served.