Psalm 8 & John 1
December 27, 2020
It is the last Sunday of 2020. What a year. At least for many of us. I won’t insult the many who have experienced far worse, far more frequently, by calling this, as Time magazine did, “the worst year ever.” But it has thrown many challenges at many people, many of whom have lived otherwise quite protected lives. More sadly it has thrown many challenges to many people who already face far too many challenges. 2020.
“Pandemic” is Miriam Webster’s Word of the Year
“Exhausting” was the top pick from the Washington Post. “Lost” “Chaotic” and “Perseverance” were their other top picks.
And while the phrases “I can’t breathe,” “You are on mute,” and “Please maintain social distancing” have become cemented into our linguistic foundations, perhaps you saw that a phrase from 9-year old Clarke Smith from Beverly Hill, Michigan took top awards for the best summation:
“Like looking both ways before crossing the street and then getting hit by a submarine.” “Because,” says Clarke, “it’s been the craziest year ever.”
So yes, 2020 has had many surprises. It has held many difficulties. But also many joys. Though parenting and schooling from home also bring their own challenges, many of us have been so grateful to have more time with our kids. More meals at a table. Less laps on Route 1. And can we praise God with a loud AMEN that 2020 saw none of the horrific, demonic, and near weekly mass-shootings at high schools around the country? Amen.
- Thanks are due to so many who have gotten us through. And while we all want a reset. While we all want a better 2021, while we all hope for health, peace, and prosperity, let us remember a truth far more foundational, far more important, far more comforting.
This is Jesus Christ’s world.
We can say this in faith but we can say this in confidence.
This world does not belong to another God.
This world is not ruled by another man, or woman.
This world is not lost to chance, chaos, or pandemic.
This is Jesus Christ’s world.
This world is Jesus Christ’s world, of course, in the sense that this is the world into which Jesus, the child of Mary, was born. If there are other worlds out there, other planets, other peoples, other histories, other time-lines, then this is the one into which Jesus, was born. Our planet, we the people (and no, not just we the Americans), Israel’s history, God’s time-line. This is the world into which Jesus son of Mary, was born.
Certainly if one scrolls through the many of images returned from the Hubble Space Telescope one sees wondrous galaxies, nebulae, and systems beyond imagination, beauty, and mystery. And we may well feel overcome by how small and apart we all are. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;” I myself am weak with awe at their beauty. And amidst them, is this Pale Blue Dot, this Planet Earth, Our Planet, this strange, intricate, Blue Planet which we call home. This is Jesus Christ’s world because the galactic forces working in the deep history of the Universe put humans here, amidst our Blue Origins.
But why? Why this world? Of all the many worlds, why us? “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Why should God care so deeply for this world?
Why too, should God care for a world in which immigrants are imprisoned, where the nomads are exiled, where the poor are persecuted, where the children are hunted? Of the many worlds of beauty, Jesus Christ’s world is also one of terrible ugliness. Yes there are Gulags, Killing Fields, Empires, and King Herods in this world. Yes, this world into which Jesus was born hunted him, exiled him, persecuted him, imprisoned him. “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Is.53:5).
The tragic, sick, violent, confused, clashing forces of this world turned their sights upon him. The child wrapped in swaddling clothes, surrounded by livestock and farm animals. This poor world of desperate struggle clutched, tore, thrashed, against this child, this boy, this peace-maker. This world feared and hated him.
This beautiful miserable, wonderful disaster is Jesus Christ’s world. He was born in it. He lived among it. He struggled with it. He waited through it. He died in it.
This is Jesus Christ’s world. But many live and die in this world. Many are born. Many are killed. Many wait. Many struggle. Just as many love, teach, and make a difference. And again we may well ask, Why?
This semester I’ve been teaching philosophy of religion and somewhat like Jacob in Genesis 32, the students have been wrestling with God. Does God exist? How can we speak of the ineffable God? Why is there evil? Does science disprove religion? Why is there something, rather than nothing? Why is there this world? Why are we here? From what have we erupted? Into what shall we dissolve? Why? Why can’t I figure out the answers? Why can’t I just be God and make the world the place I want it to be? Why? So I ask, whose world is this?
The dominant traditional answer is that this world has a first cause, a Prime Mover, “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” which stands at the world’s source. “And that being we all call God,” says Thomas Aquinas. God the Creator, God the Father the Creator, “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” as the ancient Apostles’ Creed puts it. From this all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite and perfect singular being has come this world. And once proclaimed, the great task of most theology has been to describe and reconcile how this good and perfect being, could be human and incarnate; how this omnipotent and infinite God could be weak and limited as a child; how this omniscient and singular being could be historically situated and yet also triune and eternal.
To skip over the footnotes of intellectual history, too many for far too long have simply articulated understandings of creation that, even if they were based on Genesis, were deeply unbiblical. The creator was a God we couldn’t see. A Word we couldn’t say. A creator we couldn’t confront. And to save you four months of reading, let me just say of the great deniers such as Hume, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Marx, even as there is much to learn from them, they too cannot overcome one final truth.
This is Jesus Christ’s world. He, the child, the one born to Mary, that infant is the one who made it and breathed it into being.
Let us not miss the many words, from the very home-turf sources our own Christian theologians often overlooked, which tell us exactly whose world this is.
John 1: All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. (All people = pan demos = pandemic)
Colossians 1: in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together.
Beverly Gaventa, my teacher of Pauline theology, used to say of Paul’s theology and with great emphasis: “For Paul, all means all.”
Hebrews 1: in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.
Proverbs 8 tells us: When there were no depths I [wisdom] was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. When he established the heavens…when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, I was there.
What is this wisdom? Whose is this wisdom:
Paul tells in 1 Corinthians 1: Christ Jesus, became for us wisdom from God. Somehow, in someway, the wisdom in which the world is created is Jesus Christ’s wisdom. And somehow, in someway, the wisdom of Christ, the wisdom in which time itself is created, is the very eternal wisdom of God born in Bethlehem.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven” say the Angels. For the glory of God’s highest heaven is Emmanuel, God with us. God the Child. Christ the King. Jesus the Creator.
2020 has been a rough year for many. What will 2021 hold? What will the rest of our lives hold? Who will guide us? Who can save us? Who will love us? This is Jesus Christ’s world.
Let us bring our questions, our confusions, our frustrations, our anger to him. These will be our gifts, more valuable than those of the magi. For our questions, our histories, our sadnesses, our shortcomings. They are us. Our doubts. Our fears. Our struggles. Our confusions. Our humanity. We do not have to answer these ourselves.
We bring them to him. Our frustrations, our fears, our failings; we do not have to overcome these ourselves. We lay them down as offerings at the foot of the manger.
We bring them to a Child. We bring them to our Creator, Christ the Child.
What child is this?
Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
He (Jesus!) is Alpha and Omega,
he the Source, the Ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore!
The word’s of the year: May exhausting turn to exhilarating. May chaos turn to chorus. May lost become found. May Christ’s light be pan demic.
Joy to the world!
Glory to God!
Hark, the herald angels sing!
This is Jesus Christ’s world.