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Just a thought that I couldn’t make work in the message this week

May 18, 2018 3 comments

I’ve been trying to make the case for the past few weeks that certainly those outside Christianity don’t really understand what we’re about. They think we’re some kind of combination of superstitious weirdo and control freak. But even inside the Christian Church, certainly inside what we know as the American Christian church today, there’s a misunderstanding of who we are at our core. A Doonesbury comic that ran a few Sundays back captured this misunderstanding pretty clearly.

A minister makes a final announcement to his very large auditorium sized flock, “One final announcement from the board of elders, ‘There has been some confusion among evangelicals as to what currently constitutes sin in the eyes of the church. So to clarify, we now condone the following conduct: lewdness, vulgarity, profanity, adultery, and sexual assault. Exemptions to Christian values also include greed, bullying, conspiring, boasting, lying, cheating, sloth, envy, wrath, gluttony, and pride. Others TBA. Lastly we’re willing to overlook Biblical illiteracy, church non-attendance, and no credible sign of faith.” The last panel in the comic has parishioners shaking hands with the pastor and saying, “Lovin’ the lower bar, Pastor.” And, “Me too, I feel like a freakin’ saint now.” The pastor doesn’t have a smile on his face and just says, “Enjoy.”

Doonesbury gets the criticism of the American Church today right and it’s a not so subtle jab at churches for what appears to be a blind eye to the faux pas of the incumbent President. And just so we’re clear, all those things listed in the comic are still sins. They are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit we’ve been talking about over the last few weeks: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The definition of sin comes from God’s Word and the truth of God’s Word is not bound to a time period or culture. This kind of criticism is helpful if it returns us to the core of who we are.

But the kind of criticism that suggests were superstitious weirdos or control freaks is far less helpful and mostly because it’s not accurate. Christianity, at it’s core, is an over-arching narrative of meaning for existence. The apostles knew this. Peter preached it. You want to know what Pentecost is, it’s the next step in the story of God and His action to rescue the world from its fall into sin.

The central message of Christianity, from the very beginning as attested to by the sermons of Peter and the apostles, is this message about Jesus, God’s sent One, that he was sent by the Father, he suffered and was buried, rose again, conquering death, and ascended to heaven rule heaven and earth, and he will come again.

A corollary to God’s truth is that no one else will be able to provide the world with the meaning needed for existence. Government can’t. It is a Christian’s duty to be scrupulous and hold all government leaders to the same standards of truthfulness whether they are of our party or the other guy’s. That’s not a political statement. It’s a moral one. And our government can only be as effective as it is in accord with what is true and good and just.

Luther really developed the idea of two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the civil realm. Luther was a realist when it came to government and thought, “a wise prince is a mighty rare bird, and an upright prince even rarer. They are generally the biggest fools or the worst scoundrels on earth; therefore, one must constantly expect the worst from them and look for little good, especially in divine matters which concern the salvation of souls.” The two kingdoms then are a good idea. In essence, don’t look to your preacher to solve issues of public policy or international relations and don’t look to princes in matters of salvation or moral authority.

In our form of government, it is our civic duty to hold our leaders accountable and not just to avoid criticism but to lead by example.

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Message for Ascension – Mothers’ Day

May 17, 2018 Leave a comment

The audio for this message can be heard at this link.

ChristTheKing-11-2015.jpg

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Message from April 29

May 17, 2018 Leave a comment
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Message for Easter 6, May 6, 2018

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Message for Epiphany

January 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Note: the audio for this message can be heard at this link.

Ephesians 3:1-12

Grace and peace to you…

Today is the Epiphany and the theme of the day is how the Gentiles are also included in this prophecy and fulfillment God has made to His people Israel of sending them a Savior. Among the first people to worship Jesus are these non-Jewish “wise men from the East.” “Wise men” is how many try to soften magi because magi shares the same root as magic. Any fantasy fiction fans out there will recognize we are in the realm of mages and soothsayers and what, wizards? It’s not the kind of thing we hear too often about in church; it’s more like a discussion about a show or game on Reddit. But this word “magi” evokes the “other,” the alternative world that can be seen in dreams or from where incredible power can be summoned with spells. Come to find out that historically, there was a priestly caste of the Medes and Persians known as magi. They may well have been the folks who kept the knowledge of their civilization. We separate our academics and our clergy and our physicians. They had them rolled altogether along with a mix of philosopher and astrologer and maybe even architect, too. It makes perfect sense that while the Jews were in exile in the East for two generations they would have shared their story and their hope of a savior with people like magi who were always searching for and adding to their wisdom. And four centuries later, when the star appeared, these magi went to pay homage and worship the one who is born king of the Jews. And so some of the first folks who come to worship Jesus are not Jewish believers but pagan wizards.

We’re so familiar with Bible words but some words we really should hear in sharper relief. Magi is one of those words but so is “Gentile.” Gentile means everybody who isn’t an Israelite. It means, “pagan.” Jesus was not just a Jewish savior. He was born to save all people. Isaiah’s prophecy is happening. The “nations” are coming to the light of the Lord’s glory. And that’s the command Jesus makes to His disciples at the end of the Matthew’s Gospel: “make disciples of all nations.” The word there is Gentiles, it’s “everybody else,” “the pagans.”

And that’s the central theme of Epiphany. God is about His task of including people from every nation, tribe, people, and language, of making them His people. Like He once made the genetic descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into a holy nation, so now through the message of Jesus crucified and raised, He makes all people into His holy people. Paul says it this way, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Paul tells us, he is a servant of this gospel message and so it is “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” The church exists to make known this message about Jesus. And that’s what I want to spend the rest of my time talking about with you this morning.

Even as I said it, you might have been thinking about looking around at who’s with you here to see what this might mean. Have you thought about it like that? God does this amazing thing: He sends His own Son to rescue humanity from death and eternal separation from Him and He entrusts the church to tell the story. Paul says it this way at the end of Ephesians, chapter 1, “And he [God] put all things under his [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (vv. 22, 23) It’s not how I would have done it. I’ve met me. I would use the angels. It worked with Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. But Paul says it’s our job.

We keep using that word, church. I should be clear. We’re not talking about church, “the building” or even “church body” we’re talking about “the body of Christ.” We Lutherans talk about the visible church, usually the congregation or even synod, and the invisible church, the flock of all God’s true sheep who hear His voice. That’s all correct but I wonder if it’s not a step that leads us further from the visible reality of church. After all the eternal Logos of God took on human flesh and dwelt among us. We are analog creatures and that’s how God deals with us and how we should relate with one another. So we’re left with the vehicle God gave us, the local gathering of the body of Christ, the flock of God, to hear His voice, the church.

That may, or, more likely, may not, be what you think of when you think of coming to church. For some, church is a place where your parents brought you. Others made their way into the church later in life, sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes at the invitation of friends. We go to this church most Sundays. We get to know the names of the people there; some become friends. We are called to worship by the pastor. We sing hymns and listen to Bible readings and sermons. We receive the sacrament of the altar. Sometimes there is a baptism. But what takes place here is pretty ordinary stuff with pretty ordinary people. At least that’s what it looks like. There’s really no training required. No skills to master. There are just people singing and praying and listening, being forgiven, exchanging vows, receiving Jesus in the bread and wine, celebrating marriage, honoring the dead. Millions of men and women and children all over the world do it every Lord’s Day. We’ve been doing it for two thousand years and will likely continue for many, many more. But if anyone arrived on any given Sunday looking to be entertained or find relief from a dull and boring life, they’ll likely not find it today, and they’ll likely not be back. Anyone looking to see a miracle or a vision will most likely be disappointed. Because what we do is all pretty ordinary. What you see is what you get.1

I’ve been reading a lot on this topic and one idea from one of my pastors struck me. He said that when he was starting out in the 1960’s doing a new church plant in a suburb north of Baltimore he kept running into people who were not really into going to church, they were “into Spirituality.” He said he felt like he was trying to sell and repair bicycles in a country where bicycles used to be the primary transportation but were now suddenly replaced by cars. Bicycles were now obsolete. Cars were the thing, far faster, far easier; no pedals. Pedaling a bike was church going. Driving a car was spirituality.2 He talked about how he felt a generation ago, but I can still identify with that feeling.

A generation ago in Europe, after the second World War, church attendance fell off a cliff. Anybody watching what was happening there predicted it would happen here. But a generation later, I came of age at a time when the Missouri Synod and the American Church in general was still pretty healthy. The numbers had dipped a bit, but it was nothing a serious evangelism program or some new music couldn’t cure. Thirty years ago this year, I left home to study to be a pastor, and the difference is plain to see.

Who comes to church anymore? By and large the people who come to church are not all that different from the people who don’t if the surveys are to be believed. We are pretty secularized, with little sense of reverence or practice in entering into the mystery of God. We are used to talking life as a series of problems to overcome. We generally interpret the world around us in terms of commodities we can get for ourselves. We have little sense of true need for God. To cultivate that sense is uphill work. On top of that, we are in general, uprooted from our previous homes and strangers to one another. Very few of us know our neighbors. We are, by and large, lonely. And we miss our friends so you might think we’d be interesting in creating community and being neighborly. You’d think. But there is this individualistic streak in us. We want, above all, to be independent and self-sufficient.3 They’re supposed to know we are Christians by our love, by our love. How can we possibly love one another, if we don’t even like one another? Evidence of all that out there in here is that try as we might, the church is a real place among real people with real challenges.

Church, inglorious as it is to the naked eye, is the body of Christ, warts and all, as it comes to live in this hostile country, among people who are strangers to one another—some who think they are better than others and are quite willing to help God do what He has to do, and some who think they are inadequate for anything that has to do with God. Christ Jesus, our head is active in this place at this hour. Make no mistake about it. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians chapter two, where God and Jesus are the doers of what’s happening in church nine times: Jesus is our peace (v. 14), He made us one (v. 14), He broke down the dividing wall of hostility (v. 14), he abolished the law (v. 15), He created one new humanity (v. 15), He made peace (v. 15), He reconciled (v. 16), He put to death (v. 16), He proclaimed peace (v. 17). This is the place and the hour where Jesus invites and welcomes you, where He greets you and speaks to you, where He tends and serves you, where He forgives and blesses and sends you. This is where God’s divine service to us turns us into and binds us to one another as the people of God, the body of Christ. Maybe that’s not obvious on any given Sunday but Jesus as the Savior of the whole of humanity is not obvious. As long as we try to gauge our effectiveness by secular values and insist on having church as we think it ought to be, formulating this “ought” from what we see “work” in our culture quite apart from God, we may never recognize the church that is right in front of us. Let me put it this way. American culture is doing it’s best with our celebrities, consumerism, and marketing practices rooted in greed. The church must not adopt the same methods and ideals. Instead, quietly and without false advertising we must immerse those who enter our doors into the presence of the peace God has made for them in Christ as he has for all of us. We’re not selling bicycles. Church is not obsolete. Church can never be obsolete. The Church is because God has called it to be. We do not create church. It is. We enter and participate in what is given to us. That might sound more like magic to you but I assure you it’s not. What it is, is the manifold wisdom of God being made known in you. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 The content of this paragraph was largely shaped by and sometimes lifted from Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection, p. 114, 115.

2 This story came from Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection, p. 115. I mention Peterson as “one of my pastors” and I feel like I should explain. In the absence of really any other person being a pastor to me on a regular basis over my career, even though I never met him personally, Peterson’s work has helped me and shaped me to be the pastor I am. If we “are the sum total of the five people we spend the most time with,” I am always better off when I spend time with his work.

3 Again from Peterson, p. 135.

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Message for the First Sunday in Christmas

January 3, 2018 Leave a comment

Note: the audio for this message can be heard and/or downloaded at this link.

Grace and peace…

“Fulfilled” is the word that keeps coming up in the Gospel of Luke because the Old Testament is like a thousand rivers each rushing together over a long distance, deeper and faster until they crash over one great water fall of God’s grace to which ever river of revelation pushes. Just consider that metaphor for a minute. Snow that melts in Ohio or Minnesota eventually winds its way through the streams and rivers into the Great Lakes and eventually down over Niagara Falls on its way to the sea. The Old Testament is much like that, multiple streams of revelation all pointing to one single great rushing in of God’s grace, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the unveiling of every divine plan; he is the answer to every holy mystery! When Luke says “fulfilled,” the Holy Spirit opens mysteries, tells us the secrets of eternity as the tributaries of the Law and the Prophets wind through space and time and rush together all at once and we see all of God’s divine glory in the forty-day old baby boy Jesus.

Luke saw the rivers clap together in one small unstoppable outpouring. One river came rushing in from the prophet Daniel. “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.” (Da 9:24) Luke heard that river rushing toward him. In 1:23, he said, “And when [Zechariah’s] time of service was fulfilled, he went to his home. (Lk 1:23) Then in chapter 2, verse 6 Luke says, “And while they were there, the days were fulfilled for her to give birth.” (Lk 2:6) In the verse just before our reading for today, he writes, “When eight days were fulfilled, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Lk 2:21) And then in our text, in verse 22, “And when the days were fulfilled, the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” (Lk 2:22–23) The operative word here is “fulfilled.”

Luke had done his math. From the time of Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah until the annunciation to Mary was 6 months or 180 days. From the annunciation until Jesus birth was 9 months, or 270 days. From the nativity of Jesus until his presentation in the temple was 40 days. 180 + 270 + 40 = 490 days or 70 weeks. The passage from Daniel that so many try to make into a prediction of the end of the world, was in fact about Jesus arriving in the temple. At the temple at 40 days Jesus was dedicated to the Lord just as all first-born males in Israel had been. In Jesus was the end of sin. Luke describes what Zechariah saw rushing together that day. The fulfillment of Daniel’s otherwise enigmatic 70 weeks.

Luke saw another river rushing in from the prophet Malachi. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” (Mal 3:1-2) So take that text and now read verse 27 of our reading today, “And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law.” (Lk 2:27). The Lord Jesus entered his holy temple. How did anyone endure the day? The temple in Jesus’ day was only a cartoon temple, a caricature of the real thing. Jesus was the true temple. When the glory of the Lord entered again the temple, there should have been a meltdown, a cosmic implosion, like a supernova star consuming half a galaxy. The Lord came to His temple as it was foretold. How did anyone survive the day?

Verse 25, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (Lk 2:25) By the Holy Spirit, Simeon saw more rivers, sweeter waters coming toward him than all the prophets who had come before him. And he saw all those rivers come together in his arms, because he had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. He had the consolation of Israel in his arms; he saw the light of revelation for the Gentiles, he cradled in the crook of his arms the glory of the people of Israel! How did he survive? Simeon survived because that word translated as consolation is parakleysin. It has the same root as paraklete, the advocate or comforter, which we know to be the Holy Spirit. Simeon saw the river coming from the prophet Isaiah “Comfort, comfort, you my people, says your God.” (Isa 40:1) And again from chapter 61, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me… to comfort all who mourn.”

Simeon’s eyes see the river coming from the prophet Haggai. “’The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’” (Hag 2:9) Simeon saw it. Solomon’s glorious temple in which dwelled the presence of the Lord in fire and smoke was long gone along with the rest of that Jerusalem. The Babylonians had destroyed it centuries earlier. All of the sacred things from that temple were gone. How could the glory of the latter temple that Haggai foretold ever be as great as the temple of Solomon in which the Lord dwelled personally? The Ark of the Covenant from Solomon’s temple was missing. The all-important mercy seat, the lid to the ark where the Lord dwelled in glory for the protection of His people, it was long gone. The tables of the Law stored inside the ark were gone. No jar of manna, no flowering rod of Aaron. The temple was but a shell of itself.

When Simeon’s eyes beheld the poor couple from Galilee coming to offer sacrifice in the temple according to the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons,” his eyes saw the glory of the Lord and his eyes saw the sacrifice. He knew it was not Mary and Joseph who would redeem their son with the humble sacrifice of pigeons. Simeon knew their son would redeem them, because He was the sacrifice. Simeon’s eyes saw the Ark of the Covenant for the first time as he held in his own arms the Mercy Seat, not the three hundred pound gold lid with angels wings outstretched, a mere forerunner to the real thing, but rather the 12 pound reality whose tiny arms would grow to stretch out in atonement for all the world’s sin. Simeon saw and could endure it because the Lord came in mercy once again in the flesh of His own Son, Jesus born of Mary. In Jesus, the Lord gives peace. Simeon saw the face of the Lord and lived! And yet it was enough for him that he asked to die. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word.” (Lk 2:29)

We just sort of assume Simeon was old but the Bible doesn’t tell us how old he was. We assume he’s old because now that he’s held the consolation of Israel in his arms, he’s ready to go. He talks how some older people talk. Young people say, “I only want to see God after I’m spent doing everything else.” Right? And so after we have received the Lord’s true body and blood we sing Simeon’s song from the heart, don’t we?

“Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, according to your word.

   Cause this all well and good and all,

but there’s a lot more important stuff

than communion, like after Christmas sales.

I hope the service is over soon, though it’s been divine,

and I thank you that church fit into my pla-a-a-ans this time.

We’re not ready to die because we’ve just barely come alive our eyes barely opened we’re still too blind, too distracted, preferring to play in the stagnant mud puddles to look for the deep rushing waters emerging out of the prophets bearing their gifts, presenting to us the Lord of our salvation. Lord, have mercy.

He does! Simeon was ready to die because those rivers he read, those rivers he knew, once he saw them clap together at long last, he longed to be released from this life shadows and types, of stone models of the true temple, of gold precursors of the Mercy Seat, and of animal rehearsals for the sacrifice of the blessed Son of God for the sins of the whole world, who offered himself once for all, Jesus Christ the propitiation for our sins. Simeon’s eyes had seen the real thing; he had bathed in the rushing torrent of the great waterfall of God’s grace in Christ that had come together from ever river of revelation from God. Simeon had seen the real thing and he was finished.

And how is it that his eyes could see? Why did the Nunc Dimittis pour out of him like the after splashings of a great waterfall? Mary and Joseph certainly looked like any other poor pious couple coming to the temple. Jesus certainly looked like any other 40 day-old son of Israel. He could see because the Holy Spirit was upon him. He could say, “For my eyes have seen your salvation,” because God opened his eyes to see it. Yes it was a miracle. But there was something else too. How did Simeon have the Holy Spirit upon him? By the Holy Scriptures.

Just like at the end of Luke’s Gospel were the two men on the road to Emmaus could not see that it was Jesus, alive from the dead and walking along the road with them until He opened the Scriptures to them and showed them the rivers of revelation that always were meant to join together in him, it was then that their hearts burned within them and they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.

The Holy Spirit does not blow in over the mountains. He comes through the Scriptures. It is there we see the rivers of God’s revelation come rushing together toward salvation, joining together in the Virgin and taking on our human flesh by the same power of the Holy Spirit. In human flesh Jesus restores the perfection of created human nature from Eden. In Jesus who lived perfectly a life through which we are given credit. See today what Simeon saw, the forty-day-old Jesus presented to the Lord as holy, on your behalf, as if the whole human race was offered there and called holy before the Lord. See Jesus being sacrificed in your place, buried in your grave, and rising from the dead in order to guarantee your resurrection. Recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread we sin, “Lord now let your servants go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared.” Yes, it’s a miracle. With opened eyes see in humble bread and simple wine, Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for you.

Like Simeon, with opened eyes, depart in peace, because you have seen your salvation, you have seen every river of God’s revelation come rushing together and overflowing in the great waterfall of God’s grace in Christ Jesus pouring all over you. When you do, it will pour out of you too. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Note: I wrote the majority of this message some years ago and don’t remember if I came up with the whole “rivers” of fulfillment idea or, more likely, lifted it from someplace.  Typically, if something is that good, I found it.

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Christmas Day

January 3, 2018 Leave a comment

Note: audio for this sermon can be heard or downloaded at this link.

 

Jesus is the Eternal Meaning for the World

Grace and peace…

I want to speak about Jesus’ birth just a little differently this morning.  I know it’s a little bit of a risk, but you’re here on Christmas morning.  Clearly, you’re the folks who know what’s worth celebrating  .I want to be clear that I am not really trying to say anything new about the birth of Jesus.  But I am trying to say it differently and I think we need to try to see what the birth of Jesus means in our world.

A perilous time

I think we are living in a perilous time.  The world of self-defined reality, is not longer just a Hollywood phenomenon, it reaches into our common life.  A world where chaos and misdirection is seen as a good thing.  It’s a terrible time for a preacher to try to communicate, to speak and be heard and understood. But John the evangelist still has something to say, today, just as he has for centuries.

A logos for these perilous times

John’s unique contribution to the descriptions of Jesus’ birth, reach back not through ancient genealogies but to before time, to the beginning.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  (Jn 1:1)  You’re here on Christmas morning.  My guess is you’ve heard at some point that the Greek for the word “Word” here has a pretty deep meaning behind it that comes out of Greek philosophy.  The word is logos.  And John is doing something very interesting to anyone in his time familiar with this Platonic idea of logos.  He’s saying that the logos was present at the beginning of the world and was with God, and even was God.  Logos is one of those deep concepts that’s pretty difficult to have a one-word translation into English.  But I would offer you one today logos is meaning.  Pope Benedict offered this idea in a Christmas sermon about a decade ago.  He says, “We can understand John’s words as: the “eternal Meaning” of the world made himself tangible to our senses and our minds.”

We normally focus on the part of the Christmas message that in behind born a human being, Jesus is just like us.  He knows exactly what it’s like to be human in every way, to know hunger and thirst, and pain and sorrow, and even death itself.  And this is absolutely true.  But I would offer that not only does the Incarnate Logos have a personal consequence, it has a cosmic one.  If Jesus, before he was born of Mary and named Jesus, was present at the beginning, He is not just the source for all the things but the meaning behind all things.  

There’s a long-standing joke about a philosophy student who went into for his final exam and the exam was only one question: “Why?”  And the student, thought and thought, and after an hour, wrote, “Why not?”  And turned it in.  And his professor gave him and A plus.  To which we must scream, “No!”  There is a “Why.”  It’s wrapped up in Jesus as the answer, the meaning of it all, the Logos the Greeks knew about but did not know personally.

Paul is trying to tell us that by Christ, “all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  (Col 1:16-17)  In the next chapter Paul goes on to say, “For in Christ, all the fullness of the deity dwells in him bodily.”  (Col 2:9)  Jesus is the eternal Logos made flesh.  This is what is essential to the Christian message and what is essential to our faith at Christmas.  God, in Jesus, is about the restoring of His meaning in our world.  A meaning that was rejected, and dare I say it? called Fake News by Adam in the garden.  And yet, God’s order, God’s meaning, for His creation is real.  

I don’t expect the people who celebrate a Christmas that consists merely of yule logs and mistletoe and Frosty and Rudolph to ever get it.  For them, Christmas can only be at best a season of “goodwill toward our fellow” and help for the poor like Tiny Tim.  Those folks are worried that another culture will appropriate or take over the season in some way if it’s reduced to “Happy Holidays.”  My thought has been that I don’t expect checkout clerks at stores or Starbucks cups to convey the Christmas message into the world.  The message must be preached, and heard, and treasured and carried wherever true Christians go.  And that can never be lost in a war against Christmas.  The very idea is absurd.

The eternal logos-God, became human flesh and dwelt among us.  The world that was in chaos in the beginning as was ordered by the utterance of the Meaning, still rebels against that order.  In Christ and only in Christ is there true meaning, coherence, intelligibility, and order.  Everything is sustained by its connection to Him.  And in Him all things in the world suffering under the curse of of the fall are reconciled to God and restored to their proper order.

The writer to the Hebrews is trying to sing in harmony with this tune by assuring readers that an intelligible and decisive word has been received from God.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Heb 1:1–3)

Dear Christians who suffer in a world of conflict, doubt, chaos, lies, and misdirection, there is meaning in the world.  He was born into it and dwelt among us full of grace and truth and we have seen his glory.  We celebrate His birth today.  Amen.

 

Note:  I got the central idea about Jesus being the “eternal meaning” from a letter by Ken Myers, the producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal to which I’ve subscribed for years.

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