St Bartholomew’s, Granite City–John 1:1-14
(This are my working notes. There was no developed text for this homily.)
Happy Sixth Day of Christmas. I hope you are continuing to celebrate!
Christmas Eve … familiar story/familiar words … Caesar Augustus … long journey to Bethlehem … “days were accomplished” … “no room in the inn” … angels and shepherds
We have (appropriately) sweetly sentimentalized this narrative … Prime example: In the Bleak Midwinter … “breast full of milk and a manger full of hay” … and are moved to respond, “What can I give him, poor as I am? … my heart”) … This is the public Christian face of Christmas
By contrast: Christmas morning, and the First Sunday … John: no baby Jesus, but the pre-incarnate Logos: “In the beginning was the Word … light shines in the darkness … Word was made flesh,” and moved into the neighborhood.
This is no story with a plot we can follow (drama, conflict, crisis, resolution), or characters we can empathize with. It appeals to our heads, not our hearts. But it’s a mistake to just blow it off for those reasons.
Now we celebrate not so much the feast of the *nativity* as the feast of the *incarnation* —
- God (who is by nature pure spirit) taking human flesh,
- the eternal becoming bound by time (per Luke: in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was governor of Syria), the one who is omnipresent becoming subject to geographical particularity (Bethlehem of Judea),
- one who is rich beyond measure being born to a humble (poor?) couple from a humble village,
- one who has nothing to fear subjecting himself to the necessity of fleeing for his life just days after being born,
- one who was present at creation, not as a creature but as creator, becoming part *of* that creation.
And why? To fully identify with us so he could save us. Homo-ousion. An iota makes all the difference in the world.
Best captured, perhaps, by the 18th century British poet Christopher Smart:
O Most mighty! O Most holy!
Far beyond the seraph’s thought,
Art thou then so mean and lowly
As unheeded prophets taught?
O the magnitude of meekness!
Worth from worth immortal sprung:
O, the strength of infant weakness,
If Eternal is so young.
God all bounteous, all creative,
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is incarnate, and a native,
Of the very world he made.