The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ: Christmas Day
25 December 2011
A Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Andrew C. Blume
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
It has become quite a cliché to talk about realising one’s potential. We hear all the time in popular culture, both seriously and satirically, about whether this person or that person has “lived up to his or her potential.” The realisation of potential is, however, one of the most significant metaphysical concepts we can consider. Indeed, in may ways it lies at the heart of the two schools of philosophy that have had the greatest influence upon me, Platonism and Alfred North Whitehead's process thought. Even more importantly, it is central to understanding the work of the God of Israel and Christian Story itself.
The opening words of the Gospel of John make this clear: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” In the beginning there was God and with God was his Word, his self-expression. God was full of the potential, the energy, to put the world in motion. Yet, he was not fully the God we know and love, the God who loves us, until he acted, until, using his Word, he expressed himself into the world in the formation of the Universe.
He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
In God was the potential for life and in his Word life was effected. The life the Word effected was the light of men, that which shines forth in the darkness, that which we call the Good. The realisation, the enactment of God himself was the setting in motion of nothing less than the ultimate Good, which is Love. Without the Universe, without the World, then the Good, Love-in-action, would only be one possibility amongst many for the way the world might go. In realising his potential, in realising and enacting the power of love, God decided and acted and set in motion a singular course of events, the processes of nature of a world oriented ultimately to love.
God’s first act of self-expression in Creation was, however, not personal. God set in motion great forces and even made covenant with one of the people's of the earth. He did not, however, intervene in history himself as an individual human actor. He spoke to and through the prophets, sent his messengers, but he did not come himself. This, however, God always had the potential to do for, as we know, his self-expression had been with him from the beginning. John the Baptist knew this and “came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him,” for
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
The Word of God that had always been the power of God expressing himself into creation did something new, he took on flesh, our flesh, so that all of his people might be fully in relationship with him. In the flesh, in action in the world, in the love-in-action about which I spoke last night, the love-in-action that values persuasion over coercion, God gave to us the power to behold his Glory, to have a share of that Glory.
God’s breaking into the world, God’s Word expressing himself into Creation realised God’s greatest potential which is to share the flesh of his creation and to fully enter into our experience, so that he might fully comprehend our condition. He came to understand not only what it is to love and what it is to be loved, but what it is to be despised and rejected, what it is to face hardship and challenges. He showed us in the flesh that the power of love has sway in every aspect of our experience and has the power to meet all of obstacles we face, and ultimately overcome death and darkness.
In being both Father of all things and becoming First Born of all creation in the Incarnation which we celebrate this day, God shows us the realisation of his ultimate potential to sum-up all things. God is both Father and Son, parent and child, lover and beloved. God, in and through his self-expression, his Word made flesh, has entered into his creation in a new way and changed its course once again. In a decisive action, closing off the other possibilities he might have chosen, God came as a child (and not as an adult), came as one who grew into a man (and not as one who arrived fully formed) and took up his vocation of reconciling the world to God in and through love (not as one bringing retribution and the sword). He closed the possibility that the ultimate reality to which each of us can aspire and has access can be anything other than love itself.
The Word made Flesh changed everything and puts us on a path, gives us a mission as God’s heralds of Love. Earlier we heard from Isaiah
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
We are those people whose beautiful feet who publish peace, for together we proclaim this day as on no other:
Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
And to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
Andrew C. Blume✠
New York City
Advent Feria, 23 December 2011
© 2011 Andrew Charles Blume