Summary: This message explores the mystery of the Incarnation, that we will hopefully never get used to.
Sermon for Advent IV - Love - December 21, 2014
Who here remembers being able to walk around in the light of day at 9 PM? Even 9:30 at night! Well, we’ve all experienced the same thing each day since June 21, the summer solstice. The days have gotten shorter, by about 2 minutes each day.
The darkness has gradually taken over the light. And then, to add insult to injury, we have the wonderful invention of daylight savings time here in Toronto (who’s responsible for that, anyway - we should send a sharply worded letter). In one day it got to be a lot darker a whole lot earlier.
Our cats have no problem moving around in the dark, eating in the dark. But encroaching darkness is a problem for us, who, unlike our cats, tend to stumble, sometimes badly, in the dark.
The early Christians were an inventive lot, a pragmatic crew who loved godly metaphors. When they decided that the Incarnation of God should be celebrated, they chose the time of the year, around the Winter Solstice on December 21, when the light begins to take over the darkness.
They thought, ‘hey, that’s a good time to celebrate the birth of Christ because Jesus is the light of the world. And, hey, there’s this celebration thing going on anyway (referring to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice). Let’s make it a twofor”. So yes, we have a creative, adaptive tradition.
Moving forward a couple of hundred years, we find these words:“The ancient of Days becomes an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that public shame or disgrace, ignominy, shall become honor, disgrace, or infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness. For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me”.
These are the words of John Chrysostom, a pastor who lived in the 4th century.
It is a quote from one of the earliest recorded sermons on record. In it he tries to use words to express what could only otherwise be the stunned silence and awe that the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ deserves.
At Christmas time you hear attempts by well-meaning people to express what is ultimately inexpressible, the historical fact of the Incarnation.
I’ve done this myself numerous times in this season of the year and throughout the year. It is one of the harder things about God, about the revelation of God, to understand. Not to believe, because believing is a matter of trusting.
For if we believe that God is, and if we don’t have a tiny box we try to squeeze God into, we understand that God can do anything. Literally anything is possible for God.
Sometime when you say something like that clever people come up with an absurd idea like: “If God can do anything, could He undo His own existence?”
That might be an interesting idea, but it is absurd, because God is the God of the possible and purposeful. God is the God who simply is, as God revealed to Moses when Moses asked God for His name.
And another thing God has revealed to us about Himself is that He is love. God is love. The Word the Bible uses is Agape, describing what kind of Love God is.
And the definition of Agape is affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love. Love that reaches out and wants and works for the good of another.
And the Advent theme today is the love of God, and we pause to think about something pretty profound.
That’s this: The God who can do anything, the God who Is Love, chooses to express His power to do anything and to express His matchless love, by coming to you, personally, as an infant. The God of love, who can do anything in any way, came to you as an infant.
He came to us as an infant. Why? If God wanted to change everything, if He wanted to reshape the world and reshape your life, why wouldn’t He come in a more impressive way.
Why wouldn’t He come as a warrior Who wins every battle? Why wouldn’t He come...when you think of it the greatest power of the day at the time that Jesus was born was Caesar.