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In the Beginning was the Word, Third Day of Christmas 2009, St. Simon Cyrenian
In the beginning was the word, the logos, in the Gospel. In the beginning was the Aramaic Memra in the mystical tradition of Judaism on which Yochannan whom you know as John is drawing. In the beginning was the d'var, the Hebrew word for word. In the beginning was the word, the divine word, the holy word, the spoken but not yet written word, perhaps a word whispered in a still small voice.
That word was light and life; it was more than alive; it was life itself. The word was the God of life and the life of God. This eternal living light cannot be extinguished and shines forever as God lives forever. This living light has been infused into and through creation and we - and the whole of creation - are suffused with it. But that light coexists with darkness.
The light is shining in the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome the light. Yet what John does not say is that the light does not overcome the darkness. The darkness and light co-exist. There is always shadow. The world is filled with shadow.
The engines of war are chewing up the bodies of God's sons and daughters, all too often leaving them without legs if they are left with life and leaving them with traumatic brain injuries and permanently altered personalities, and nightmares - sleeping and waking. Meanwhile the economic engines have ground to a shuddering stop leaving women and men and their children locked out of soon to be auctioned homes, shut out of an overburdened healthcare system pried beyond their means and desperately hungry for more than a Thanksgiving or Christmas gift basket will provide.
And there is violence, in homes and families, neighborhoods and communities, schools and colleges, and churches and congregations. There are violent words and physical blows and stabbing and shootings. Babies are smothered and beaten; children are neglected, abused and murdered, women are killed by the men they love, the fathers of their children - sometimes before their babies are born; men are killed by their sons and killed by their fathers and killed by their wives and girlfriends. Death is everywhere, in the darkness and in the light.
And the church keeps saying, "Jesus saves!" and, "Merry Christmas!" and ignoring the shadows. We light our candles, wreathe our homes with light, wrap our trees in light and bask in glow of our fireplaces, but there remain shadows in the corners of our rooms and in the corners of our eyes.
This is the scandal of the Incarnation, God descended into shadow, even into Shadow-Valley Death. Perhaps even more scandalous is how God did it: The scandal of the Incarnation is the scandal of the human body. To paraphrase Brother West, (Cornell West): Jesus was born too close to urine, excrement and sex for the comfort of some theologians. I suggest that the proximity of the Messiah to a woman's body and all of its ins and outs is even more untenable for some. The scandal of the Gospel may have been the crucifixion for Paul. But for far too many others it is the specific circumstances of the Incarnation: human flesh and blood. Worse, a woman's flesh and blood - that she was not sexually experienced only mitigates the horror and shame a little.
For it is through human bodies that shadows are deepened in and lengthened on the world. And while there are evil forces at work as well, encouraging, facilitating, instigating; the old claim "the devil made me do it," does not account for all of the evil in the world. We humans have done more than our fair share.
So God became human, woman-born. Son of God, Son of Woman, Child of Earth: בן אדם, mortal, frail, embodied, human. To be human is to be carnal, fleshly, to dwell in shadow.
To be human is also to be in relationship as God is in relationship within Godself - this is the essence of the Trinity: Three interwoven persons so deeply connected that we can only artificially delineate the boundaries between them - for God is One. Because the Creator is enthroned in the heavens, that does not mean that God was not present on the earth long before Jesus walked. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost did not mean that She had never been here before. Jesus and his Father were one even as he was living a fully human incarnated life and the Sovereign was enthroned in the heavens.
The word was with God and the word was God. The word became flesh and dwelled among us. God became flesh and dwelled among us as Yeshua, Jesus, the mortal immortal, Son of God, Son of Woman, Child of Earth. He was like us and we are like him. We are human. We are mortal, frail, embodied, humans. We ache for human companionship. We worry about our parents as we come to grips with our own mortality. In our desperate pain we search for a familiar comforting face. And we pray that when it comes our time to die, we won't have to face it alone.
We do not walk alone among the shadows of earth because God is Immanu El, God with us. In our brokenness, in our fullness, God is with us. God is with us when the bullets are flying, when the ground is shaking, when the planes are crashing, when the waters are rising, when the ship is sinking, when the winds are howling, when death is knocking - God is with us! God is with us when we are falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned. God is with us when we are raped and tortured and murdered. God is with us! This is the Gospel, not that we're untouchable, not that we're inviolable, for even the Son of God was violated. But that we are never alone, never forsaken, never absent from the Divine presence is the Gospel.
This Gospel is that God's concern for the woman-born was manifested in God, Godself, becoming woman-born, for the redemption and liberation of all the woman-born from fear and from death itself. Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of Woman, came to seek out and save the lost and to give his life as a ransom for many.
This is the season of hope and peace and joy and light. One of the reasons Christmas was place at this point on the calendar is because the days are getting longer; light is literally filling the world (our side of it anyway). The twelve days of Christmas are day of light. The feast of Epiphany is a feast of light.
"What has come into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."
When beginning in Genesis, the first thing God created was light. When Mary's boy child was born, even more light flooded the world. Each of us has become a light-bearer through our professions, confessions and baptisms. The light of God lives with and in us; we are the light of God. And there is no darkness, no shadow, that cannot be overcome by the holy light of God.
How bright is your light? How do you nurture its flame? How often do you join your flame with the flames of your sisters and brothers? Let the light of Christ shine in and through you to the ends of the earth, with all of its nooks, crannies and corners.
This light will shine through the ages; it cannot be overcome and one day it will banish all darkness. Whether we join God in heaven or God and heaven join us on earth, the whole of creation will be transformed by that holy light. For where God dwells, there is no darkness or shadow at all.