The scandal of the Incarnation….continues

Second Sunday of Christmas

God’s unstoppable purpose breaks forth anew! God acts in history, bringing God’s future into sight.

  • Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3 “You shall be called by a new name”
  • Luke 2:22-40 Jesus is presented in the temple

God’s Incarnation in Jesus…….continues

The transforming event of human history is God’s coming into the world as a baby. God entered the world as an infant wholly vulnerable to the world and totally dependent on human care. Jesus is born as a baby – a human being.

All of Advent prepared us – again – for God’s entry into the world as a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem of poor parents of Nazareth, Mary and Joseph. Jesus is born under empire’s reign. Jesus transforms empire forever.

We call it the Incarnation ! And Jesus’ Incarnation continues! Today, the second Sunday of Christmas, the first day of the Year of our Lord 2006, God’s Incarnation continues.

But what does Incarnationmean? [Responses?]

Incarnation is the Divine Reality meeting human reality in a particular way. God becomes human in a new and peculiar way. It is a scandal that goes against the grain of the universe and conceptions of reality.

Do you believe the Incarnation ? [Responses?]

During Advent I had a conversation with someone about the Incarnation . We agreed that too little attention is given to Jesus’ Incarnation. His assessment was that Christians won’t pay attention to the Incarnation because the word is too difficult to comprehend. He may be right. But I am not ready to concede the Incarnation to the excuse of our incomprehension or ignorance

My question is: How can Christians speak so readily of Jesus’ Resurrection and fail to comprehend Jesus’ Incarnation ? We need to recover a sense of Jesus’ Incarnation.

The Incarnation is the utter Reality of Jesus’ life on earth in human history. Incarnation is more intuition and inspiration, even imagination, than it is knowledge, particularly understanding. We see the Incarnation when we do see Jesus. There is no knowing Jesus without seeing Jesus or even being Jesus in the world of everyday life.

Seeing the Incarnation of Jesus this Christmas

Where have you seen a sign of the Incarnation of Jesus this Advent and Christmas? Later in the prayer time I am going to ask this question again for your response. [Responses?]

I see signs of Jesus’ Incarnation….in this Advent-Christmas season….in this crazy world.

Sages of the Church across the Ages

We do well to pay attention to the early Church Ammas and Abbas – early Christian Mothers and Fathers. In the forth century, Ephrem the Syrian wrote various commentaries and hymns. He is considered to have written some of the greatest Christian poetry prior to Dante. Ephrem the Syrian said about the angel’s song to the shepherds announcing Jesus’ birth in a Bethlehem stable, “When lower beings received peace from superior beings, they cried, ‘Glory on earth and peace in the heavens.’ At that time the when the divinity came down and was clothed in humanity, the angels cried, ‘Peace on earth.'” ( Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture , NT III, 42).

Wendell Berry is a contemporary abba – a Farm Father rather than a Desert Father, writing from the farming hills of Kentucky. Wendell Berry said, “It gets darker and darker, and then Jesus is born.”

Church and Family gathered to celebrate Jesus’ birth…Christ’s Incarnation

Our gatherings and preparations and worship and celebration in Advent and Christmas is a sign of seeing Jesus. Advent worship….Children’s Christmas program….Longest Night Service…Christmas Eve celebration at the Berg’s…Christmas worship…family Christmas dinner…Aunt Ruth joining us this weekend to celebrate Jesus’ among us…

Friends on the Street

Another sign of Jesus’ presence on earth is in those who live around us on the street. Early this week one of them came in and gave me this sweater as a Christmas present from himself and others. Instinctively I wanted to resist – to refuse this gift given in the name of the Incarnate Jesus. I can’t accept a gift from those who have so much less than I do. Yet I could not refuse what was offered in gratitude and love in Jesus’ name as a sign of Jesus in the world.

Christian Peacemaker Teams

Ten days ago, I exchanged e-mail messages with Peggy Gish in Amman as she and Sheila Provencher and Jenny Elliot prepared to return to Baghdad to join the other CPTers, Greg Rollins, Anita David, and Maxine Nash. Together they work and wait forthe release of James, Tom, Harmeet, and Norman and countless Iraqis kidnapped and detained by all sides of this evil war. CPT is a rare and clear sign of Jesus’ Incarnation in a troubled world.

On Friday Anita David sent a message from Baghdad. She told how hard it is to wait and work for the release of their four companions. Anita’s words reveal a sign of the Incarnate Christ – the Real Jesus – in the midst of a vicious war built on lies and violence. Anita ended with these words:

Every conversation with every one revolves around this kidnapping. It reminds me of how much all our talk used to revolve around conditions here. There is no escape from either this place or this kidnapping. What we do, along with other Iraqis is try to think our way through and around the stupidity of daily violence, intermittent presence of water and electricity, long delays in traffic and bad, bad air. And we enjoy and are humbled by offerings of graciousness and friendship from so many Iraqis,

How do you respond to U.S. press reports criticizing our presence here. Proof of our “recklessness” is the kidnapping of our four teammates. How do you react to Rush Limbaugh who says “… I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality.” What makes him think there’s even one leftist feel-good hand-wringer here? What kind of man “likes” the suffering of others?

How is the reality of over 2000 dead, over 15,000 wounded Americans and a much greater number of dead and wounded Iraqis working for him? Why does he accept the consequences of war? And a final question which begs answering–do we have the right to advocate a message of peace if we are not prepared to pay the cost of nonviolent peacemaking?

On the Monday before Christmas, Gene Stoltzfus, the now retired founding director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, wrote a Christmas letter to pastors explaining CPT’s desire to take up the Prince of Peace’s purpose in the world. Gene wrote:

Two years ago, I was in Baghdad where I spoke with many Muslim leaders in the Mosques. For some it may have been their first contact with Christians. We listened to each other explain our work and our needs. Some understood that Christians thought of all of them as terrorists. Many were outraged by the disappearances of people in their community and the residual effect of the occupation, which to them was terrorism. We were also concerned about these matters and found common ground. When we described our work in nonviolence and refusal to accept armed protection they listened and said, “That is what Islam is about. We can do that.” Others said, “It wouldn’t work here.” I witnessed them open themselves to the power of peace based on fairness in Muslim tradition. So today the fact that so many Muslim leaders have spoken up on behalf of hostages including CPTers is not an accident. This speaking up is a way to counter act how faith is hijacked by states and groups working out of pain and anger.

On that September 11 day, I watched as the towers of finance and industry burned. I thought that this was an opportunity to put our best agape-inspired imaginations to work. The world felt broken. Why would God allow this, unless it was a reminder to us of our deepest task as Christians?

Terrorists of all kinds, guerrilla supported, organized crime, and state supported believe that their purposes and pains will be made right by killing an enemy. By lashing back we set the terms for still another generation of terror. Our culture has worked this way for more than 5000 years back to the days of city-states in Iraq.

God did not create us that way. The program of the Prince of Peace did not include repaying evil for evil. He proposed a program of enemy loving. I do not presume to know the full power or dimensions of that program but I have enjoyed many occasions when I saw it work. The Prince’s program suggested a complete paradigm shift of how violence is engaged. We live in a time when experiments to carry out this new paradigm are widely initiated, conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, nonviolent direct action, all of which have some roots in the stories of the Prince before he was killed by the State (December 19,2005 letter).

Seeing Jesus in the Peace of Christ

Last Winter Bluffton University, the Mennonite college in Ohio, send out a publication with various faculty responses about what makes for peace – how God’s peace in Jesus is made manifest in the world. Susan Biesecker-Mast, professor of Communications, offered this great wisdom:

Although violence and peace are similar in that they are both humanely made they are absolutely dissimilar in that the former is a matter of force and the latter is a matter of faith. Whereas violence is made through force in order to guarantee a certain outcome, peace is made through faith in God’s promise that violence will never have the final word. Thus, if we are to be peacemakers we must embody the truth that we cannot be peace-forcers.

The best way for us to make peace without force is for us to live daily as witnesses to the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – namely, that even as the world seems bound to violence, God is greater. Or as Rowan Williams recently put it: “God is the reality that, simply by being what it is (or who it is), establishes that violence cannot fill up the whole space of the world.” We make peace whenever we witness to that reminder. We make peace whenever we act through the freedom that comes with knowing that even greater than the terror of human violence is God’s love. With that freedom, we can relinquish fear. Thus, even in a present that seems to be all about fear of the future, the enemy and death, we may choose to live in hope for the present, love for the other and joy for this life. (Bluffton, Winter 2005, “Peace for our times,” p. 8)

The Incarnation unfolds – Jesus is presented in the Temple

We have been prepared – again – for Jesus’ coming into the world. The biblical story in Isaiah and the Gospel’s continue to prepare us for the continuing Incarnation of Jesus.

We hear the words of Zechariah’s song:
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:78-79

Every Sunday we heard and sang Mary’s magnificent words to help us see Jesus:
God’s mercy is for those who fear God from generation to generation.
God has shown strength of arm;
and has scattered the proud in the [imagination]thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped [this] servant Israel, in remembrance of God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors, to Abraham and Sarah
and to their descendants forever. Luke 1:50-55

Elizabeth and Anna both offered words of wisdom to see the Coming Jesus.

Old Simeon offers yet other words of wisdom and hope for us today to see the Incarnate Jesus in this suffering world. When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to be blessed in the temple, Simeon took baby Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying:
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too. Luke 2:28-35

Jesus has come into the world. We are named and nurtured by how we see and follow the Incarnate Prince of Peace . The Incarnation continues now and forever. Amen.