Many years later, my brother and I still talk about him.
He stood maybe five feet tall, maybe a hundred pounds if you also count the bling, and rocking a velure track suit and a macho haircut.
He was standing in front of us in line at a gas station convenience store in Acton with beef jerky in one hand and problems in the other.
The phone in his ear was obviously bringing bad news, but we were only able to hear his side of the conversation.
She did what?...
Oh no she didn't...
I told that [woman] to stop being crazy...
That's it. I'm coming down there.
This, of course, is the outcome for which the prophet Isaiah prayed, but which struck fear in the hearts of almost everyone else.
If and when humanity gets too crazy, when we persist in doing exactly what we were clearly
instructed not to do, God might just have enough and come down here.
Richard Rohr writes about this danger:
...for most of human history God was not a likeable, much less a lovable character...
When God appeared on the scene, it was not felt to be good news by most people; it was bad news.
The sense was, "Who has to die now?
Who's going to be punished now?
What is the price I will have to pay for this?"...
This pattern of expectation and fear is so in the hardwiring that in the two thousand
years since the incarnation of God in Christ, not much has really changed—except in
a rather small critical mass of humanity.
Most people in my experience are still into fearing God and controlling God instead of loving God.
They never really knew it was possible, given the power equation.
When one party has all the power—which is most peoples' very definition of God—all
you can do is fear and try to control.
The only way that can be changed is for God, from God's side, to change the power equation
and invite us into a world of mutuality and vulnerability.
That, Saint John sings, is what happens at Christmas.
The Word was God...and the Word became flesh and lived among us...full of grace and
Truth we expect, which is why we become so quickly and completely afraid.
When God says, That's it, I'm coming down there, we know this place is a hot mess and
assume heads are going to roll.
The surprise is grace.
When the Word becomes flesh, that little velure track suit is much too big.
The truth is tiny and fragile, helpless and powerless.
God collapses glory into a few pounds.
Look upon the Baby Jesus, Martin Luther preached.
Divinity may terrify man.
Inexpressible majesty will crush him.
That is why Christ took on our humanity, save for sin, that he should not terrify us but
rather that with love and favor he should console and confirm...
See how God invites you in many ways.
He places before you a Babe with whom you may take refuge.
You cannot fear him, for nothing is more appealing to man than a babe.
Are you affrighted?
Then come to him, lying in the lap of the fairest and sweetest maid.
You will see how great is the divine goodness, which seeks above all else that you should
Trust him! Trust him!
Here is the Child in whom there is salvation.
To me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ became man, a
child, a babe, playing in the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother...
Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to this gurgling
Babe and believe that he is come, not to judge you, but to save.
Mild he lays his glory by, we sing, born that we no more may die,
born to raise each child of earth, born to give us second birth.
Charles Wesley understood and underscored the powerful good news John brings us: to all who received him, who trusted in his name, he gave power to become children of God.
This is everything.
In biblical times, you are who your daddy is.
Your parents determine, and limit, your identity and your destiny.
But Christmas explodes the world and opens an unimaginable new possibility.
Children of slaves, children of peasants, children of shopkeepers, children of scandal, children of criminals, children of anyone can and do become children of God.
We can become more than we ever dreamed because God became less than we ever dreamed.
The Word, which by definition never changes, changed.
The Word, the complete and consistent and eternal Ultimate which never becomes anything else, became.
The Word became human and pitched tent with us, full of grace as well as truth.
The Word became tiny and tender and totally dependent on a young, unwed couple.
The Word splashes on our heads as tap water full of promise and enters our bloodstreams as a modest wafer and sip of bulk rate wine with the power to change our lives entirely.
The Word became flesh that we might become children of God.
And not just any God.
The real God, who is powerful enough to show no fear, fearless enough to relinquish all control, whose love is so deep and pure that the grace and truth of it explode our comprehension and defy possibility.
God is the crazy one.
God comes down here, born to raise you up, given for you.