“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Saturday, December 27, 2008

In the beginning was the Word....

A Reflection on John 1:1-14

A few weeks ago we pulled out our boxes of Christmas decorations and began to decorate the house. One box was marked, Nativity set. Now, I have three or four sets and I wasn’t sure which one this box contained. Turns out it was an old, relatively inexpensive one given to me by a former client, and therefore treasured because it came from her. Slowly I pulled out the pieces and set it up: three wise men, a donkey, the crèche, and Joseph. Carefully going through each piece of newspaper and wrapping paper to make sure I had all the pieces. But in the end I realized that two were missing…..Mary and the baby. How, I thought, can you have a nativity set when Mary and the baby are missing? A donkey or a sheep can go missing and the story is still ok. A shepherd too, maybe even one of the wise men could be missing – and well we could just pretend he was coming along later….but, there is no nativity set with Mary and the baby….Thus far I have yet to find them…and no idea where they’ve gone too….

While I have a few nativity sets one of my friends collects them. She and her husband bought their first one from Walmart… a few years after they were married. It is a large and colorful nativity with the usual figures.

Her favorite nativities are the small ones. She has several nativities that are less than 3 inches

The latest addition to her collection… is a nativity scene that her husband brought back from Colorado. It has a teepee… with an angel flying over the flap of the teepee... three braves bearing gifts... a young brave with a lamb on his shoulders... a wolf... a buffalo... Joseph… Mary... and a baby Jesus in a papoose lying on a mound of straw.

Like nativity scenes that depict the Christmas story, our readings today tell us the story of our salvation history. We have Isaiah writing after the exile at the beginning of the restoration of Israel, when life was settling back into something that felt normal. Of course the people of Israel had been struggling for 500 years, so who knew what was normal by that time. Nonetheless people were settling in and hope was returning – Isaiah says: “The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” You will be called by a new name, people of God.

And our Gospel reading from the prologue to the Gospel of John is one of the most beautiful readings of all our scripture – reminding us that our salvation history, what God is doing in and through humanity, began before time and will continue always. This reading reminds us that God is an expressive being, God speaks, and God’s Word is made manifest in all creation – but most particularly in human life.

As Christians, through our baptism we are told that we become the living body of Christ - that is our new name given in baptism. But, what does it mean?

What does it really mean when we say, Incarnation, Body of Christ, Light of the World? These phrases are like passwords into our Christian identity. Personally I’m not terribly fond of passwords. You know the password that protects strangers from accessing our online bank account or our email account? The one, if you are like me you always forget?

Passwords are like keys – they can keep things in and can let things out. Passwords enable us to open things up, like the protected systems we access on the Internet. For example:

Want to pay for something purchased on eBay with PayPal? You need your password.
Want to sign in to AOL, or Yahoo? Yup, a password.
Want to sign into certain diocesan web-pages? Again, a Password.

In fact, some of us can't even get anything to come up on our computers unless we first give it a password.

Every time we sign into a protected system we must provide certain information so that the system knows we are who we say we are. If you don't know your personal "password," the system won't let you in. Years ago one friend of mine used the name of her favorite food, “popcorn,” as her password. Now, in this day and age of identity theft we are cautioned to use cryptic number and letter combinations that are totally random. I have about four different letter and number combinations I use – the problem is I forget which version I have used for whatever it is I want to access – this is particular true for online things I only access once in awhile.

One thing I try not to forget though, is who I am as a Christian. As Christians our identity, through baptism, becomes connected to Jesus, we are known as “The Body of Christ.” But the body of Christ is not the same as a password – it is not intended to be something that limits or restricts who has access to God, to Christ, or to the Body itself. Passwords are a good thing when we are talking about internet protection and security…but as Christians God calls us to something else – not limiting access but opening up access. God came into the world that all might see God’s light, hear God’s Word, and know God’s love.

Long before Christ had a body, before the Word became flesh, this expressive Word of God was active in the world. God spoke, breathed, moved, and things happened. Then God chose to become human, to act in and through human life. When we no longer see his body, when we can’t find the baby for the crèche, our scripture stories remind us. They remind us of what God is doing n and through humanity, in and through history. They stand as a reminder of what God is doing now in and through us. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was made flesh, and the word is us. We are his body, his hands, his heart, his face, his love, his grace, and his hope.