I speak to you on this Christmas Eve in the name of the true Light, the Word made Flesh, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Friends, here we are again, on another Christmas Eve, to occupy ourselves with what poet T.S. Eliot calls “the point of intersection of the timeless with time,” to receive “a gift half understood, a hint half guessed” about what it means to be human. The past, the present, and the future all mingle and muddle together and we find ourselves yesterday, today, and forever declaring the truth of this night, that God’s name is Emmanuel because God is with us. God has become a human being. How… weird! How gloriously strange! The Church’s two-thousand and twenty-one memories of this night may blunt for us the sheer strangeness of this claim we boldly make here together, that the God of the universe became like one of us, a human being, but here we are nevertheless, at the manger with the Shepherds, with Joseph and Mary, staring once again at the child that the prophet Isaiah says has been born to us, the son that has been given to us. In something as commonplace as a birth, in a place as plain as a stable, we find nothing less than God incarnate. How strange.
This word, strange, comes to us from Latin, and originally carried the sense that something was “from elsewhere, beyond,” and in this sense, the Incarnation is the strangest thing in history. God comes to us from timelessness into time. And yet, in the very fact of the Incarnation is strangeness’s undoing, as Jesus becomes to us, for us, and with us the least strange, the most familiar, thing of all—a person. Joseph’s son. Mary’s baby boy. Our brother.
It’s this tension between the strange and the familiar, the known and the unknown, the old and the new, that we must always experience when encountering Jesus. This child we meet in the manger is our Wonderful Counselor. Joseph’s son is our Mighty God. Mary’s baby boy is our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace. Titus tells us that this person, our brother, the man Jesus, is our great God and Savior. These majestic titles are all knit together in Mary’s womb and made into a body, a perfect human life, the life of Jesus, the life of God.
But why all this? Aside from the mere strangeness of its occurrence, what is most shocking about the Incarnation is what it tells us about God. As former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says, “God cannot help himself overflowing into the world he has made. God doesn’t have to be persuaded to be interested in us.” He just is. God’s becoming human shows us that God values humanity as “supremely worthwhile.”
It is the beautiful strangeness of this last fact, that God values humanity, that God loves each and every one of us, that gives way to the real wonder and awe of this night. Because we see God in this child, a child we know will grow up to suffer and die, to resurrect and ascend, because we know this child is God, we are able miraculously to see God in each other and in ourselves. We can look upon the face of our enemy and say hello to God, to look in the mirror and be sure that God’s presence is there staring back at us, even and most importantly in times of hardship, when that presence seems far away.
Friends, I hope this Christmas that, like the Shepherds, you let the strangeness of this night draw you out of yourself to seek the Lord in an unexpected place, which the Lord has made known to you. I hope you see the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ reflected back at you in the mirror, in the faces of your family and your friends as you hold them close, and in the faces of your enemies. I hope that God’s love of humanity, as Titus says, trains you to love humanity like God does, as we celebrate the Incarnation, the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many blessings to you, and a very Merry Christmas. Amen.
The Rev. Dillon Green, Curate
December 24, 2021
St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, KS