Saturday, December 24, 2016

Year A, Christmas Eve, Luke 2:1-20, John 1:12-14

Peace Lutheran Church, Otis Orchards

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
There are certain things that awaken within us the deepest fears—primordial fears, fears that go to the depth of our very being. 
A friend of mine, sleeping in a tent during a safari in Africa, woke up to the roar of a lion, not far away.
Primordial fear.
A doctor’s diagnosis of a life threatening disease likewise can awaken within us that same deep dread.
Primordial fear.
Simply becoming increasingly aware of our aging also stirs those deep seated fears within us.  Especially if it involves a hard choice like going to a nursing home with little hope of ever living at home again.
Primordial fear.
Dr. Karl Albrecht, in an article in Psychology Today identifies the five fears we all share, as being:
1.       The fear of extinction, which is more than just a fear of death, it is a fear of simply ceasing to exist at all.
2.       The fear of mutilation, of losing part of our body and minds, of being less than fully human.
3.       The fear of a loss of autonomy—this may take many forms, from becoming disabled, or imprisoned, or as I mentioned above, having to move into a nursing home for the rest of one’s life.
4.       The fear of separation, the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else.
5.       And finally, the fear of humiliation, shame, or disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self.
These represent the dark side of our life.
Primordial fear.

And then there are those other things that awaken within us quite a different response.
Primordial hope.
These are the things that all people share because they are part of our true nature and essential to our very being.
Instead of a lion’s roar, it is to behold creation in all its beauty, or a lover’s tender touch, or more than anything else, I believe—a baby born, full of life and the potential of all things good.
This is what awakens within us that hope and joy that makes life so meaningful.

·         We hope for life, lived to its fullest.
·         We hope for health.
·         We hope for freedom to be all that we can be.
·         We hope for love, and a sense of belonging.
·         We hope to be accepted for who we are.

A child is born.
Hope abounds.
The dark night of our deepest fears, meets the dawn of life’s richest gifts.

I’m thinking of this tonight for two reasons:
First, because this year our life has been blessed with the birth of our first grandchild, Jasper.
And like all parents, or in our case parents, that birth had an effect.
We were awestruck by the gift of life.
We rejoiced with every word about his health.
We anticipate all that he might be.
We experience the depth of human love and family.
And with great joy, we embrace to new reality of being “Oma and Opa”.

Primordial hopes. 
The wonderful side of life that we all long for and thrive in. 
It came to us this year, as a gift of a child—our dear Jasper.

“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness--
on them light has shined.”

“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;”

“to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord”

It’s no accident that God chose to come to us as a babe in Bethlehem.  Because babies to powerful things, for us.

A time of hope.
Not fear.

Of light.
Not darkness.

But it’s not simply about the baby, and all the wonderful feelings that are brought about by such a child. 

It is about what God was doing in Christ Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, it is written:
 “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.”

And “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.”

This is the mystery of Christmas.
God became a human child—
That we might become children of God.
God was born of the flesh, that we might be born of the Spirit.
God was born from below, that we might be born from above.
St. Athanasius, in a statement that sounds more controversial than it is, put it this way:  “God became man, that men might become gods.”

At the end of John’s Gospel, he recalls Jesus’ final prayer with his disciples:
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

As the Father loves Jesus, so also, the Father loves you.
Each and every one of you.

The Bible talks about our human origins, as living “according to the flesh”.
The Bible speaks of our divine origins as living “in the Spirit”.

This is the thing—
Those primordial fears that haunt all human existence, they are all the eventual outcome of living in the flesh, our mortal existence.
We will cease to exist.
We will lose our body and minds.
We will lose our autonomy,
                And we will feel abandoned and humiliated. 
There is a reason why all people fear these things—
Because they are part of this life, as humans.

However, the hope that is within us, is a hope that is ours, not because we are born of the flesh, but because we are born of the Spirit, from above.

In Christ is our Hope, our life, our health, our freedom, love and acceptance. 

Christ was born of an earthly mother,
                That we might be born of a heavenly Father.
Jesus, went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist.
When he came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended on him, and God said:
“You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

These are the words that the Father now speaks to you and me, as children of God:
“You are my child, my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

And the angels sang:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"


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