I shared this reflection with those who gathered for worship Christmas morning…
The letter to the Hebrews begins, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
“Last days” always seem to inspire scurrying around. A quote that I love that is attributed to Martin Luther is (though it is unclear if he ever said it), “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” It’s meaning, I believe, is that in a world that is scurrying around, we still have a call to till the ground, to get dirt under our fingernails, to nurture things and help them to take root, grow, and bear fruit. In the same way, “in these last days” we too are firmly planted and nurtured, so that we too would be rooted, grow, and bear fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16).
The scriptures that as Christians we know as the Old Testament are full of stories about God and about people, from creation to a people, and a call to be rooted in God’s promises. Many of those people scurried around, as we still do – trusting themselves instead of those promises. Yet, the prophets spoke of a longing for what God would do next, and this letter to the Hebrew seems to capture it well, “In the last days, God spoke to us by a Son.” At Christmas we celebrate that the Son who speaks has come among us in “these last days.”
Even in these last days, we have witnessed the same scurrying around that seems to always define us. I watched the news this weekend and saw a report on Christmas shopping. The byline on the bottom of the screen was titled, “When 363 days are not enough” and the story highlighted those who did not begin their Christmas shopping until December 23. The report highlighted last-minute deals that shoppers were looking for, the long lines they stood waiting in, and the many items unavailable or sold out and the disappointment found by those caught up in such scurrying. An interview of a young man summed it up best. “Next year I’m not going to wait to shop until December 23. Next year, I think I’ll begin on the 21st!”
We are called out of the scurrying, that we would be rooted into the promises of God, given to us in “these last days by a Son.” Amidst the scurrying around us we gather around the manger. A word first given in the prophets of old, announced to Mary by the angel, affirmed to Joseph in a dream, sung by the heavenly host to shepherds, and pointed to by John the Baptist who was “not the light, but testified to the light” (John 1:8). This Son of God, born in the manger, grew up among loving parents who brought him to the Temple, as he became a man he healed people and preached, and taught people how to bear the fruit in their lives that God hopes for us. He died upon a cross for the sinfulness we all take part in through our scurrying around and as he walked out of an empty tomb he announced the coming of a new creation. Christmas is the beginning of that new creation, as the Son of God, the very word of God, “became flesh among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Jesus enters the world not that we would become more divine, so that God would make us more human – becoming flesh like us – that rooted in the word made flesh we would grow and bear fruit in the world. Even in those darkest days, when we feel withered, when our roots feel frail and we feel blown around, and we wonder if our fruit will ever grow, the word of God – Jesus the Christ, the light of the world, calls out as the word of God to forgive, strengthen, encourage and take root in us, not that we would be the light, but would testify to the Light that has come.
“In these last days, God has spoken to us by a Son.” As we celebrate his coming around the manger, that with dirt under our fingernails bearing fruit to those who still scurry, we come to bask in his light. Christ has come…Merry Christmas!
The Christmas Gospel –
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 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 or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)