Summary: After Christmas, 1985. We alone of creation know that we could be and should be more than we now are. In Christ and in his vulnerability we are empowered to change.
"To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God." Power to become …
If you ask what it is to be human, if you want to know what separates us as human beings from all other forms of life, one way you could answer the question would be to say that we human beings, so far as I know, are only creatures who know that we are not all that we might be. We men and women, so far as anything can be known about these things, are the only one's of God's creatures who are not satisfied with ourselves, who think of ourselves as imperfect and incomplete. We alone of all creation are able to look at ourselves and say, "I'm not doing well enough, I'm not performing up to par, I still have a lot to learn."
Oh yes, I can speak harshly to my little dog and make her hide under the couch for a half an hour because she has done something she isn't supposed to do. But that does not mean she spends that thirty minutes making resolutions about how to be a better dog, nor does it mean that she undertakes in any way to improve herself or to move ahead toward some goal of better dogginess -- all she can do is to respond to the punishments I dish up. But she is not like you and me, for we do, if we are sensitive at all, create in ourselves those moments of anguish and pain, those times of self-doubt, those occasions in which we determine that we will do better, we will become something more than we are now.
But the paradox is that we can never quite get to where we'd like to be, can we? We cannot make ourselves be a whole lot different from what we are now. We cannot simply by wishing it were so make ourselves into perfect and polished finished products. Our dilemma is that however much we may know what it is to be authentic human beings, however much we may discern what our Creator's will for us is, still we fall so terribly short of it all. Somehow the power just does not lie within us to grow ourselves up; it's not knowledge we lack, it is power. Power to become.
But it is to that dilemma precisely that our God speaks as in the word made flesh he comes to us. It is to that puzzle in the human condition that our God comes in Christ, and here in the Gospel of John we find that there is a way out, there is an answer to this ancient human failing: "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God." Power to become.
Think for a moment about the wonder of this; look at this strange and yet wonderful reality: that in the powerlessness of God there is power for us. In the powerlessness of God there is power for us. As our God comes in Christ Jesus, to become a fragile infant, to become one who suffered all of our limitations, who endured all of our frustrations, who knew what it is to hope and to long for something and to struggle against overwhelming odds -- as God comes to stand alongside us in our human struggles and sets aside all the outer wrappings of his power, we are empowered. We receive power to become children of God.
To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. The key is not only to follow the adult Jesus as he walks through the streets of the city and teaches great principles of life; that's important, but the key is also to see the vulnerability of the babe of Bethlehem and to trust a God who will do that for us. The key to being empowered to become a child of God is to discover that in the apparent powerlessness of God there is an awesome power to change my life. Just as he brought shepherds in from the field to adore him, just as he diverted wise men from the east so that they might bring offerings to him, just so he brings to each of us who will enter into these days of his coming the power to turn aside from all that we have been doing, from all that we have been; and he will give us the power to become. The power, indeed, to become children as he was -- to become children of God, born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of very God himself.
"And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only son from the father."