(A sermon by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, based on Jn. 1:14). "The Incarnation II" ______________________________________________________________________
Surprises…We worship a God of surprises. Today, we celebrate one of the most fascinating, mind-boggling surprises of them all. The birth of Jesus Christ--God coming into this world in a real, live human being. Today's Gospel puts it this way: "And the Word became flesh and lived among us." "He became a person, and took up his abode in our being" (Dr. William Barclay). The Greek word for "lived" or "dwelt" among us literally means: God pitched his tent among us. This great event of the Cosmic Christ who helped create the universe entering world history in the person of Jesus is called the Incarnation. The word refers to God putting on, wearing human flesh.
Sadhu Sundar Singh, of India was so moved by Christ's Incarnation, that he told the following story: "There was a king. His Grand Vizier was a learned and saintly man. When travelling in Palestine the Vizier was deeply moved as he heard about Christ, and became a Christian. When he returned home he told the people that he was a Christian, and that he believed in the Saviour who came to this world to save sinners. The king said to him: 'If I want anything to be done, I tell my servant and it is done. Then why should the King of Kings who is able to save people by a word come to this world himself and become incarnate?' The Vizier asked for a day of grace before giving his answer to the question. He sent for a skilled carpenter and asked him to make a doll and dress it up exactly like the one-year-old son of the king, and to bring it to him the next day. The next day the king and his Minister were in a boat together, and the king asked him for an answer to his question. At the same time the carpenter came and stood on the shore with his doll. The king stretched out his arm to receive the child, who, he thought, was his own child. According to instructions previously given by the Vizier, the carpenter let the doll fall into the water. The king at once jumped into the water to rescue the drowning child. After a while the Vizier said: 'O king you needed not to leap into the water. Was it not enough to bid me to do it? Why should you yourself jump in?' The king reflected: 'It was a father's love.' The Vizier said: 'Love was also the reason why, in order to save the world, the all-powerful God became incarnate instead of doing it by His mere word.'"1.
The Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and living among us, the birth of Jesus as a real, live human baby is God's way of rescuing us from drowning in our sin. It is God's way of telling the world, and telling each one of us: "I love you." The three most important words that all of us need to hear over and over again, every day of our lives--I LOVE YOU."
The following story (from Homiletics, Jan.-Mar. 92, Vol.4, No. 1, p. 5) captures, in a profound way, the significance of God's love for us in the Incarnate Christ: "A young father and his daughter were on a cruise, a "get-away" cruise because the wife/mother had just died. Turning to each other to help relieve the pain, they huddled together on board ship. And on the deck of that ship the little girl asked her father, "Daddy, does God love us as Mommy did?"
"At first the father didn't know what to say. But he knew he couldn't side-step the question. Pointing out across the water to the most distant horizon, he said, "Honey, God's love reaches farther than you can see in that direction." Turning around he said, "And God's love reaches farther than you can see in that direction, too." Then the father looked up at the sky and said, "God's love is higher than the sky, too." Finally, he pointed down at the ocean and said, "And it's deeper than the ocean as well."
"It was then that the little girl said a most surprising thing. She replied, "Oh, just think, Daddy. We're right here in the middle of it all."
God, in the person of Jesus Christ loves us so much that we are placed right in the middle of it all. We're so important to God that he visited us in human flesh to claim us as his own. We are in the middle of the unfolding drama of God's saving work. In the fully human Jesus Christ, God is in complete solidarity with us.
As Dorothy Sayers once put it: "For whatever reason God chose to make (us humans) as (we are)--limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death--He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from (humankind) that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth the while."2.
In the Incarnation, Christ continues to reach us where we're at; he affirms and celebrates our humanity. God is more than an intellectual, abstract Being. God deeply desires to know us on an intimate, relational level. God in Christ has come close to us--that's why he's not only the Cosmic Christ robed in divinity in the heavens. He's also the earthly baby in a manger, whom we call our Friend and Brother.
"Several years ago, an atomic scientist was arguing for the value of exchange scholarships between nations. He was not thinking of Christmas, but he gave us a beautiful picture of Christmas when he said, "The best way to send an idea is to wrap it up in a person." That is what God did in the incarnation. He took the idea of his love and he wrapped it up in the person of Jesus Christ."3.
What better way could there be for God to get his message across to us? God living among us, pitching his tent in this world with real flesh and bones and blood. As followers of the Word become flesh, we do not worship or turn Christ into an abstraction, an idea, a concept. No! We worship and celebrate him as a human being. He is able to reach us and save us because he became one of us. As God Incarnate, he shares all of our humanity, without sin. So we too can declare with the poet, Richard Crashaw: Welcome! All Wonders in one sight! Eternity shut in a span. Summer in winter, day in night, Heaven in earth, and God in a human. Great little one! Whose all-embracing birth Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav'n to earth!4.
1. B.H. Streeter & A.J. Appasamy,The Sadhu:A Study In Mysticism & Practical Religion (London:MacMillan & Co., Ltd., 1921), pp.58-59. 2. Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1949), pp.3-4. 3. "To Woo and Win a World," Sermons for Advent and Christmas (Lima, Ohio:CSS Publishing), p.49. 4. J.D. Morrison, Editor, Masterpieces of Religious Verse (Grand Rapids, MI.:Baker Book House, 1977), p.139.