The Second Sunday of Christmas – From the Cosmic to the Prophetic
On the Second Sunday of Christmas, our focus will be the reading from Gospel of John. Jesus is not introduced by nation in this passage. Instead, we see the relationship of the Word and Wisdom of God in terms of the embodiment of God’s vision in the ministry John the Baptist and the expectation of the coming Christ, the Messiah, who becomes flesh dwelling within the ambiguities, the tragic beauty of history.
John’s Prologue sees God’s revelation as cosmic in scope. The incarnation is not an aberration but a reflection of the essential nature of the universe. The incarnation is not supernatural but the ultimate manifestation of God’s intent for the universe. All creation emerges from the Creative Wisdom of God. Sin and darkness are unnatural in a God-created world. In contrast, nothing could be more natural than the Word made flesh, human life as it is intended to be. In words spoken by Irenaeus less than a century after John’s Prologue, the glory of God is a fully alive human, fully embodying God’s intent for creation.
John the Baptist is also a reflection of God’s Word and Wisdom, but his reflection is partial not complete. The Light that enlightens everyone is bright in John’s ministry but still partially concealed. John is the moon, reflecting the brightness of the sun, and not the sun itself.
The great tragedy of life is that humankind veers away from the natural, the divine intent residing in all creation. The light shines in and on everyone. Enlightenment is a possibility for all humankind. Yet some prefer darkness. Sin is far from original here but a tragic deviation from reality at its depths. To those with open spirits, the true light is obvious. Yet, the light is eclipsed by our self-interest, quest for power apart from love, and desire to base the meaning of life on our own individualistic effort and achievement. Sin leads to chaos, exclusion, and persecution. Sin leads to violence, the quest to win at the expense of others’ wellbeing.
The rugged individualist, the heartless mogul, the unfeeling national leader, appear to be powerful but their power is built on shifting sands. Their time will come and go. Idolized by millions, adored as political saviors, they will discover that their earthly power leads to spiritual malnutrition. They strut and fret on the stage of history only to fade away, illusions, deadly illusions, signifying nothing in relationship to the enduring and evolving moral and spiritual arcs of history. Footnotes in history, they will eventually be seen as those who tried but failed to defeat the embodiment of God’s light in our world.
Those who turn to the light will receive power. They will know themselves to be the children of God, not in a binary sense, nor as separate from the children of darkness. They will embody God’s intent for humankind and will have the power intended for humankind. Their power will be natural insofar as it reflects the Word and Wisdom of God in contrast to the unnatural power of potentates, demagogues, and deniers.
The Word and Wisdom of God became flesh. God is with us. Deep down, the incarnation of Jesus makes all things sacred. Divine incarnation in the world of the flesh opens up the possibility that every season of life may become holy, that sickness and pain can be transformed, that the healing of nations is possible.
Darkness is strong. Some prefer chaos to communion and divisiveness to love. Those who turn to the light will experience their vocation as light bearers to the world. Our lights will shine giving light to others and showing the way toward God’s horizons of Shalom. Empowered by the Light, we will embody ourselves, within our finite flesh, the deeper naturalism of divine creativity. We will be the children of God.
In this time of pandemic and protest, light bearers provide a path toward wholeness. Followers of Jesus, and the church, witness to the deeper naturalism whether in making good trouble to protest injustice and global climate change; living out our mission to enlighten and enliven the least of these; calling demagogues to account; or being instruments of healing, bringing restoration to cells and souls alike.
Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor, theologian, and author of over 60 books, including “Process Theology and Politics,” “Prophetic Healing: Howard Thurman’s Vision of Contemplative Activism,” “Piglet’s Process: Process Theology for All God’s Children,” “Mystics in Action: Twelve Saints for Today,” and “101 Soul Seeds for Grandparents Working for a Better World.”