Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church
Waretown, New Jersey
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We peculiar people called Episcopalians celebrate Christmas until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. While our neighbors are busy taking down the ornaments and hauling their tree to the curb, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and most Lutherans are still singing Christmas carols!
Christmas carols are one good reason to make Christmas last for twelve days. But there are other good reasons. Among them is the opportunity to reflect on this special season. What do we mean when we speak of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us?
When John used the term Word, he was speaking of Jesus Christ. This belief, that God took on flesh and moved into our neighborhood, is usually referred to as the Incarnation.
In describing the Incarnation, one of the early church fathers said, “What has not been assumed has not been redeemed.” When God chose to take on human form, he wasn’t just pretending. He wasn’t acting out some role in a divine drama. Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, chose to completely surrender his power and glory to be born like any other baby, with the same needs and limits as any other newborn child.
That means that God knows what it means to be hungry and helpless, knows how it feels to be held when confused and afraid and knows what it means to be fully dependent on others for every aspect of existence.
During Christmas, we rejoice that our Savior is born. This is a real flesh and blood baby we’re talking about, not some manifestation of wishful thinking. This is not an indifferent God dwelling somewhere up and heaven. Heaven and earth have been joined. There is no longer any separation between us and God. That is the source of our wonder and awe during this Christmas season.
There is another implication that is important for us to notice in the story of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. If God was willing to take on human form, then maybe we aren't the horrible depraved species that we think we are. When God completed the first act of creation, God saw that it was very good. We have been created by God, and we are very good. Otherwise, how could God have taken on humanity? We have always been intended to be good, to be holy. It is our nature, because we are created in the image of God, and goodness, holiness, is the nature of God.
With the birth of the Christ child, and the division between heaven and earth being bridged, all of creation is now given the opportunity to be made new. As the people of God, we are now invited to become members of this new Kingdom of God, and be God’s agents in bringing heaven to earth; to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world today by proclaiming that the chasm between heaven and earth has been bridged.
One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel, which means "God with us.” Emmanuel means God no longer hides in heaven. God is with us, with open arms.
May Christ be born within our hearts during this Christmas season. And then, may we love and nurture the Christ child within one another, that together we might reach out with open arms to those in need, proclaiming through our actions the good news: Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!
In the Love of Christ,