Let's begin by answering the burning question weighing on everyone's mind this Christmas.
"Why don't the worship videos include the creed?"
I thought you'd never ask, but someone actually did, God bless her.
It's the same reason we don't sing the kyrie: it rings lonely with only a voice or two.
The creed is also philosophical, hard to listen to, liturgically optional, and it lengthens the
service, which creates more work time for our technical wizards and quietly shapes our
expectations for when we return to in person worship, which will likely have to start out
shorter than usual for the purposes of public safety.
But don't worry: I'll make sure the sermons stay just as long and tiresome as ever.
The logistical reasons are not as important as the theological ones.
The creed is our corporate proclamation of faith, words we share with one another and with centuries of other Christians across many lands and languages, a shared heritage written
to be spoken together; it's a choir anthem, not a solo.
The Nicene Creed intentionally changes the "I believe" of the Apostles' Creed used at baptisms to "We believe," serving as a shared statement of Christ's community.
It doesn't have nearly the same punch when just the pastor recites it...as you will find out today.
Because today we include the creed, and the bow that comes with it.
A wise pastor in my first call taught me to bow during the stretch of the Nicene Creed between "came down from heaven" and "ascended into heaven," a traditional Christian gesture to honor the marvel of Christmas.
We call it "incarnation," the Word become flesh, the astonishing move God makes from heaven into human.
It is a decision that has shell-shocked the church with awe and wonder from day one.
You hear echoes of it in the Christmas proclamation with which we began and in a thousand quotes from early church writers.
You hear it in the Christmas pageant song Martin Luther wrote for German children to sing:
O Lord, you have created all; how did you come to be so small?
And it detonated like an atomic bomb on educated Greek ears: The Word became flesh.
The Word, by definition, doesn't ever become anything.
The Word is God, eternal, unchanging, immune to the whims of history and emotion, abiding and enduring with complete consistency above it all.
John's claim that the Word would pitch a tent in a human body is sheer lunacy that conspiracy theorists and people in tinfoil hats reject for being too out there, impossible to believe.
Mario Lopez as a lethorio fried chicken magnate is more believable than God as a baby.
No Christmas miracle or movie plot can match its audacity or ridiculousness.
Grace and truth are stranger than fiction.
It's no mystery why his own people did not accept him.
We often don't accept each other either, or ourselves, much less God dressed up in diapers.
Why would we accept the bastard son of an unwed teenage radical who sings about
overthrowing the world, running with her immigrant baby daddy crossing the border on
nothing but a dream?
If we strip away the layers of sentimentality and familiarity, the Christmas story—skipped by
Mark, told differently by Matthew and Luke, and philosophically lyricized by John—is
fifteen ways of terrifying.
God invades and infects the human race with indefensible divinity.
God crosses every line; now no one is safe from love.
Remember that you were ... without Christ, the author of Ephesians writes to the Gentiles, having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Ch