I’m polishing off my notes for my Christmas Eve message. Besides the customary Isaiah and Luke passages, I am using this text from Colossians:
1May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
The points of emphasis for me are “image of the invisible God” and “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”. What does God look like? A baby? A baby with questionable paternity? A baby whose parents were too poor/slow/unconnected to find a warm place to welcome him into the world? A baby born into a people under imperial rule? This is God? If we can find divinity in these circumstances, why can’t we find it in other places?
But let’s be honest, it’s really easy to see God in a baby. Babies are hope, joy, peace, and loved wrapped into an adorable bundle. But I think the point of the incarnation might be that God can be found in all of humanity. I’m not saying we’re all gods. I’m saying that there is something divine in all of us and we would do well to work a little harder to find that of the divine in the other.
I took a marvelous class my first semester of seminary entitle “Jesus: Images and Experiences”. It was primarily about the ways that Jesus has been portrayed in art. The interesting thing that came out of that class for me was the fact that every culture has created a Jesus in their own cultural image. There is art with African Jesus, Chinese Jesus, European Jesus, American Jesus… everyone once their piece. It’s because we all want our images of ourselves reinforced. And their have been periods in history when many oppressed people have absolutely needed to see Christ in their image for their own sense of self esteem and self worth. But now, we have to go out of ourselves and begin to recognize the divine in the “other”. This is the challenge that the incarnation lays at our feet. God is in flesh. Something of God is in all flesh. Even flesh that is very much unlike my own. I can see God in the baby. Can I see the spark of the divine in my enemy? And because I see that divine spark, can I love my enemy, turn the other cheek, pray for them and serve them without reward?
Yep, Christmas is pretty serious. That baby means business…