Nativity of the Lord (December 25, 2017)
Verbal communication may be our most precious gift. We have all been successful with it. We have all failed miserably with it. Sometimes, we are inspired; other times we put our foot in our mouths up to our knee: spouse to spouse, friend to friend, parent to children, children to parent. All, at times, become exasperated – and that is only within the circle of those closest to us. Imagine God’s problem in communicating with many diverse people in many, diverse cultures!
Communication depends upon the common experience of the two involved. Our God wanted to communicate with all of us so much more deeply than through Jewish prophets. Christmas celebrates a divine breakthrough in communication through a universal, common experience. Everyone loves a newborn baby. God, in his infinite genius, employed childbirth, a universal, celebratory experience to touch every one of us, to speak to every heart.
Today, we celebrate this miracle of Emmanuel, God-with-us. Our Father’s Son came to us. God became one of us. Our God inspired the writer John to call Jesus “the Word.” The word became flesh. Both God and we know that words are mere tools to communicate, to express ideas. Some word-tools have temporary use. Some last or change meaning. But, our greatest words achieve clarity and permanence when they are embodied in persons.
The word “justice,” when it is embodied, takes on flesh in a Moses who stood up to pharaoh in Egypt. Justice, when it is embodied, takes on flesh in a Lincoln when he published his Emancipation Proclamation. Justice, when it is embodied, takes on flesh in a martin Luther King when he delivered his “I have a dream” speech and marched in Montgomery. In those instances, the word “justice” took on flesh in the persons who embodied justice.
When a wise wordsmith was asked to define “prudence,” he paused thoughtfully and gave a definitive answer: “prudence is what the prudent man does.” The important words take on flesh and live in persons.
Love is surely a “many splendored” word. It has many meanings in the mouths of many, diverse people. John the evangelist told us in one of his letters, “God is love.” God’s love is the highest form of love. God/love is concerned totally with the other. It is completely unselfish. It is unconditional; God loves us no matter what we do. God’s love cannot be earned; it is freely given to us. Love took on flesh in the person who embodied love.
In John’s Gospel, we hear: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god, and the word was God…The word became flesh and lived among us.” Love took on flesh, became incarnated when love became enfleshed in Jesus. Jesus lived a life that always modeled, enfleshed love.
Today we celebrate the one we have been given by our God. His generosity moves us to give gifts from our hearts as tokens of the love we have for him and for one another in a wonderful ripple effect of love of our neighbor.
In the same passage, John goes on to write the sad words, “He came to his own and his own did not receive him.” May each of us have the courage to accept Jesus in our hearts and follow the way of love he modeled for us.
May Jesus’ love be enfleshed in us. May we live Jesus this and every day of our lives with joy and gratitude.