Saturday, December 28, 2019

Gospel text for Sunday 29 December 2019

John 1:1-18        In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But 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 the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 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.

Reflection        Having just enjoyed Christmas with my family, including loquacious 11 year old Alec and 18 month old Wesley, I cannot count the number of times I heard Wesley invited to, “Use your Words.” Each time he complied, expressions of glee and encouragement resounded. The evocative power of words is compelling. 

Perhaps that is why the writer of the Gospel according to John begins, “In the beginning was the Word” and “all things come into being” with the Word. The Greek for “Word” is “logos.” It refers to the wisdom, reason and order of God incarnate through Jesus, the human revelation of creative Divine Presence. Jesus reveals the expressive capacity for taking all things into account, considering them and using his words to instruct the physical and ethical grounds for right relationships, human with human and human with Divinity. 

The “Word” may be said to represent the convergence of Divine and human genius. It conveys the gift of intellect present through the receptivity of humanity to Divinity. And here is the astonishing news. The “Word” is not the exclusive purview of Jesus. The ‘Word” represents “the true light, which enlightens everyone…” With the exception of those born silent, the spoken “Word” reveals the capacity of each of us to receive and express the wisdom, reason and order of God right here, right now, on earth.

It used to be that we heard the “Word” of God breaking through to us from some distant and surreal region beyond the beyond. It was the Word of remote God spoken through angels or a motley crew of snarky and sometimes cranky prophets. But today we have the feet on the ground revelation that ever since the very “beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And this Word that has come into being... is life itself that is the light of all people.” This changes everything.

The “Word” of God is not distant or remote. The “Word” of God is the light and life at the very center of each one of us. The “Word” of God is with us... with all people. We have never been separated from God, not for an instant, not since the beginning because the creating Word of God is our very light... the radiance of our life. And with it we are meant to represent God’s wisdom, reason and order on earth. 

Here is the invitation for 2020. Use all your words to express the compelling power of God’s wisdom, reason and order on earth and every thing will be changed for the good. 

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Gospel text for Christmas Eve 24 December 2019

Luke 2:1-14        In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven,

Have you ever seen a newborn or very young infant? There is something unspeakably fragile about them, something that breaks through the accumulated layers of our composure, lifts our eyebrows and the pitch of our voice and renders us rather ditzy dolts. Even three hundred pound men in grey flannel suits cannot resist a quick “koo chee koo chee koo.” And then, there is that other moment, when the weight of responsibility for this utterly vulnerable being dawns upon us. 
I will never forget that experience with my daughter Leela. She was ten days old and it was the first time I was alone in the house with her. I put her on her change table and then remembered I needed something on the other side of the room. As I turned to walk away I was overwhelmed with the realization, “If I walk away she could fall and die. Her very life depends on me. Oh no. What have I done?”
Before the nativity of Jesus we expect God to arrive with an army and break the ranks of our oppressors. We expect God to burst onto the scene and execute an apocalyptic event that destroys all that is evil and rescues all that is good. But God enters our human story as a vulnerable infant born into seriously compromised circumstances, evoking our wonder, compassion and love. 
Is that not apocalyptic? Awakening the wonder, compassion and love of humanity?  It certainly was for me. As a grievously self absorbed grad student, bent on completing my dissertation and playing hard ball with the boys in academia, Leela was born into seriously compromised circumstances. The realization that I was directly responsible for the life of this vulnerable being was like ten years worth of forth of July fireworks going off in my mind at one time. I was awestruck. I wept. I picked her up and looked at the light in her eyes and finally saw beyond my own self interest. I held her close to feel her breathing on my cheek, a breath I cherish more than my own. In hindsight I believe this is how compassion and love were born in me, and it was apocalyptic. It changed everything. This weak and dependent newborn broke through the accumulated layers of my composure, uprooted my evil (self absorption) and rescued my good.
I am not saying that Leela is God, not any more or any less than any other child. I am saying, the nativity of Jesus changes our minds and our hearts about every single child that is born, which of course comes to be every living being. Every one of the more than seven and a half billion people on our planet today enters our human story as a vulnerable infant born into seriously compromised circumstances. Our lives depend on one another. Make no mistake, we are meant to respond to each and every human being with wonder, compassion and love. Thanks to the nativity of Jesus, God enters our human story and makes this possible. Emmanuel. God is with us! Merry Christmas!!

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