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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas: Heaven Surprises Earth

Let me begin by wishing you a hopeful, loveful, joyful and peaceful Christmas. Today we celebrate the (ongoing) event of God surprising earth with Heaven. In Christ, God surprised earth with Heaven. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, shepherds, wise men, Herod, a stable, Bethlehem ... God surprised them all with Heaven. I hope God surprises you with Heaven because of Christmas 2015.

Matthew and Luke begin their good news with the story of the birth of Jesus ... He is a little human baby. Mark begins his good news with the baptism of Jesus the man in the Jordan in Judea. John begins his good news "in the beginning", a cosmic or eternal event, and he equates Jesus with the God-spoken Word of the Creator.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Now I'll read that again and substitute Jesus for the Word which helps us to get a better idea of just what John is proclaiming. God surprising earth with Heaven, in fact, with Himself:

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. Jesus was with God in the beginning. Through Jesus all things were made; without Jesus nothing was made that has been made. In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. Jesus was in the world, and though the world was made through Jesus, the world did not recognise Jesus. Jesus came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive Jesus, to those who believed in Jesus name, Jesus gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Jesus became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

THAT is what we celebrate today: an event that was planned or prepared for, perhaps anticipated is a better word, so ... Christmas, the Incarnation, God becoming human, was anticipated before the creation of the world. Both Peter in his letter and John in his Revelation allude to this when they say: Before the foundation of the world, the Lamb of God was slain. The Coming of the Lamb was not some later plan, it was anticipated as a possible outcome of Creation at the beginning. God the Trinity, who built into creation the quantum physics only uncovered in the last century which recognises and attempts to predict the possibility of various outcomes, God who built that into creation knew that there were various possible outcomes for the Creation venture, one of which would require the coming of Himself to His creation in order to restore it.

He didn't plan the sin of Adam and Eve, they weren't robots that had to disobey. He didn't plan the rebellion of Cain and the sinful choices of humans. He didn't plan David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, he didn't plan the destruction of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar, the denial of Peter, the persecution of the church by Saul, etc, etc, etc. He didn't plan WW1 and WW2, or the Twin Towers or Isis, or child abuse, or disease or suffering. He didn't plan your suffering, your pain, your sorrow ... all these things (and of course many others that have never come about) were anticipated with varying probability by the all-knowing God before Creation, and so, before the creation of the world, the incarnation was a probability that the Trinity did not shy away from. Giving up heaven, leaving omnipotence behind, becoming human, vulnerable ... and, the source of life becoming a victim of death itself ... all of this is embraced by God the Trinity.

And so, at the centre of everything is Christ. This event, the birth of Christ and what it led to, stands at the centre of everything. All time is measured according to whether it happened before or after this one event. Every time you fill in a form, one of the questions will either be how long after the birth of Christ were you born, or, how long after His birth is it today.

Christ stands at the beginning because He was in the beginning. So John begins his gospel with "In the beginning, Jesus." The birth of Jesus is a cosmic event that impacts your life and mine, whether we want it to or not ... but I hope you do and I'll tell you why.

There are a number of possibilities facing each of us all the time. I wonder how many of you anticipated everything that has happened to you since last Christmas, or since we last gathered on Sunday. There are just so many possibilities, in our work life, our domestic life, our relationships, our health life, our national life, our international life ... so many possibilities, with varying degrees of probability and then how many different possible/probable outcomes for each of those!

BUT ... at the centre of all those, and in fact at the beginning of each of those and at the end of each as well, is Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, with You. God surprising your and my earth, our existence, with His Heaven. That helps us face every possibility, planned and unplanned, wanted and totally unwanted.

Christmas calls us who believe to a recommitment to live by faith because we might well be severely tested in the time ahead; it perhaps calls us who don't believe to surprise ourselves and others by choosing to believe ... that won't surprise God because it is one of the possibilities He has foreseen and prepared for in your life, but boy, it will surprise you. A final choice is to continue in our disbelief, which might not surprise anyone at all! Our reading described all three of these possibilities:

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


May you see His glory.

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