Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023 YEAR B christmas 1

Christmas 1, 2023
Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
Psalm 147:13-21
John 1:1-18

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, first of all, let me just say Merry Christmas.  (And I hope you’re enjoying those 7 Swans a Swimming.)  This gospel reading we just heard is the reading for the first Sunday of Christmas every year, and it is also the gospel reading for Christmas Day each year.  So we get this same reading back to back every year.  It’s almost as if the people who put together the lectionary wanted to be sure that we had plenty of chances to hear how everything began.  And it’s a good reminder, because it tells us how we got here.  But—more importantly—it reminds us that Jesus was here all along, even before coming to us in the form of a baby lying in a manger.

And talking about how everything began naturally leads me to talk about Original Sin, right?   It’s interesting that the Jewish people have no construct of what we call Original Sin.  They don’t view the story of Adam and Eve in the same way that most Christians do.  There is no Fall there.  The first time the word for “sin” shows up is not at the Tree of Knowledge, but rather when Cain kills Abel.  Many Christians will tell you that death came from Adam’s sin, and of course, Paul certainly helps that idea along.  But Rabbis rightly point out: If eating from the tree of life would have made Adam and Eve immortal, then they were created mortal by God’s own intention.  That is, death was built into the system from the start, and is not the result of people disobeying God.  

Where we really get the concept of Original Sin is from St. Augustine.  He serves it up in theory, and Calvin hits it out of the park by introducing heady theological terms like prelapsarian, whatever that means.  In the Roman Catholic understanding, Original Sin is handed down through the generations, and is then washed away through Baptism.  The Eastern Church does not hold this belief, and pretty much says we’re all capable of sinning on our own, without Adam and Eve’s help, thank you very much.  But for Calvin, we are thoroughly tainted with the Original Sin, and so he gives us the phrase, Total Depravity—which would be a great name for a punk band.

So, there’s your one-minute discourse on Original Sin, as filtered through the limited understanding of Father George.  I wanted to start with that because I want to talk about creation and incarnation, and I promise it will make sense.  (To me, anyway.)

In the book of Genesis, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  Then God creates light, looks at the light, and declares it to be good.  Then God does some other architectural stuff, and separates the land from the sea, and declares it good.  Then the plants produce seeds of their own kind, and God declares this good.  God does all the stuff with planets and stars and suns and declares them good.  Then God creates animals and birds and fish and declares them to be good as well.  And then, God creates humans, in God’s own image, and God sees that everything is good.  Everything.  Is.  Good.

But there’s another way of looking at everything, which is not good.  And it comes to us from Plato, by way of the Zoastrians, Gnostics, and—more recently—in something called “dispensational premillennialism.”  (Which would be a very bad name for a punk band.)  This way of looking at things is that it’s all gonna burn.  Don’t get too attached to the things of the world, because this world is not your home.  They would say, this world is bad, but your soul is good, and will rise from the grave, apart from your sin-filled corpse, when you one day leave this cursed world behind.  But remember:  the resurrection of the body is something we believe in, and we proclaim it together every single Sunday.  Your soul and your body are one, and they will both be raised up on the last day.

So, to sum up, God created everything and called it good.  But between then and now, we’ve developed a worldview where—at least for some people—humans have declared it all bad.  And by imposing this concept of Original Sin, or separating the mind and body, or viewing it all as background scenery for the Rapture and Armageddon, a good many people say all creation is now somehow tainted and corrupt.  That everything and everyone is going to be better after leaving this planet.  Redemption means being taken away from this world.  Denying the flesh strengthens the soul.  Those who have died have gone on to a better place.  Earthy and earthly are somehow a bad thing.  But remember . . . God created, and saw that it was good.  God said it was good, and God has not said it is not good.

So today we come to part two:
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.

Jesus, the Word, the creator of life and light, became flesh and lived among us.  Jesus went through all the stages of life you and I go through.  Experienced the full range of human emotion from birth to death.  Put the stamp of sanctification on every single thing.  By walking among us, Jesus is a living breathing reminder that what God created is still good, and worthy of hosting God in person, in Jesus our Lord.

And, as we heard in this gospel text, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Salvation is the fulfillment of creation, not the overcoming of it.  Jesus is the pinnacle of creation, not the solution to it.  Jesus does not rescue us from the world; rather, in Jesus, God enters into the world to be with us.  The word Emmanuel means, “God with us.”

In the beginning, creation was declared good by God.  And, in the birth of Jesus, creation was declared good again by God.  You are part of that good creation.  You are declared forgiven and redeemed by God.  Worthy of saving, worthy of dignity, worthy of feeding and sustaining.

As we heard, “All who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”  And so now, children of God, do not be afraid.  Look for the light in the midst of the darkness.  Because the light is always there.  Always shining.  Trust that the darkness will not overcome the light of the world.  God is indeed with us, and has been from the very beginning.  God created, and it was good.  Jesus has come into creation, and it is still good.


No comments:

Post a Comment