The Mystery of the Word Made Flesh
A Christmas Homily by Frank Schaefer
There is something about a starry night. My
family and I like to go camping, and every once in a while we have one of those starry
nights when we gather around the fire place in silence, gaze into the fire and think deep
thoughts. In those nights you cant help but ponder the big questions in life,
how it all began, about the purpose of life and the universe. Perhaps the shepherds, too,
were in such a mood when suddenly the announcement about the birth of Jesus was made to
them by the angelic band.
based on John 1:1-8
Have you ever wondered what caused the shepherds to go seek that baby in a stable? They
actually left their flocks behind! Thats highly unusual for shepherds to leave their
flocks unattended. So, what about this message concerning a king in diapers caused them to
be so deeply impressed? And deeply impressed they must have been to be looking for a
babe in a feeding box.
Well, we could ask the same question of ourselves: what drew us into this
sanctuary today? What caused us to leave our family time, interrupt our busy lives, and
come worship? Is it because its a tradition? Because thats what we do on
Christmas Eve? Hardly. We sense that what draws us to church on Christmas Eve is bigger
than tradition. There is a greater reason for going to church on Christmas Day. Today is the day when even the doubters among us turn into believers,
believing--if only for this day--that God is born among us; and if the Word of God can
take on flesh in the form of a babe, then everything is possible.
Humanly speaking, what can possibly be sacred about a crying baby in a smelly old barn,
lying on a bunch of hay in a dirty feeding box? And yet, we instinctively know that there
is more than meets the eye. The baby in the feeding box stands for something great and
wonderful and . . . something very personal.
It is the mystery of God stooping down to our humanity even our vulgarity. Because,
when you think about it, God could have chosen to arrive in royal robes. At the very
least, God could have arranged for Joseph and Mary to find a room in a Bethlehem Inn. But
God chose to come to us in an utterly ordinary--even vulgar--way.
Humanly speaking, there simply is no magic left when we arrive in the stable and see
the baby in the feeding box. And yet, there is something extraordinary here. In the very
humanness, the vulgarity of the babe in the manger we find the mystery of Emmanuel--God
with us. God stooped down to the most ordinary human level and because of it we know that
there is hope; suddenly, all things seem possible.
And thats why the "barn was better than the inn," because God, through
Jesus, endured the full scope of the wretched human experience so that there may be hope
Speaking about this mystery, Barbara Brown Taylor (Decked Out in Flesh) once
said: "Choosing flesh, [God] chose the lowest
human common denominator and in doing so left us no escape from his presence. That is why
it is so important tonight to let the star show us a real child, to believe that what Mary
and Joseph got was no Hallmark baby but a belching, squalling infant who kept them up
nights for weeks, and that in choosing to make his entrance in such an ordinary way, God
showed us that flesh and blood, dirt and sky, life and death were good enough for him.
More than that, he hallowed them, made them holy by taking part in them, and left us
nothing on earth we can dismiss as trivial or unknown to him."
Underneath our fine dresses, underneath the facades we erect, underneath the image we
project; underneath it all hides an ordinary and fearful human soul that cries out for
Gods love. And God, through baby Jesus nestled in a manger, reaches out to our
ordinary human souls saying: "Dont be afraid, for behold, I bring good tidings
of great joy to you."
Keep in mind that "a baby is--in
the best of worlds--evidence that a love affair has taken place, and that is certainly the
case with this particular child. God has loved humankind from the moment he thought us
up." (Brown Taylor).
This is the true message of Christmas that God loves us so much that he became like one
of us--even like the least among us. Once again
during this Christmas season of 2001, the ordinary becomes holy and the holy ordinary in the Word made flesh. In him we see ourselves, but in him we also see
the great love with which God loves us even while we are yet sinners. And in him we see a
way out of the darkness: our fears, our sin, and our frail human condition.
God, through Jesus, reaches out to the core of our very soul, saying:
"I came to save you--no matter how lowly you may be; and don't you even think that
you have to reach up to me--I already came down to you. Just accept my gift of love
and salvation." Let us embrace once again Gods great gift of Jesus--in which he
proves his love for us once and for all. Merry Christmas!