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 Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the
dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
Gentiles and Jews were like today's Republicans and Democrats, but without all the compromise,
cooperation, and mutual understanding and goodwill.
The rigid separation between them was only exceeded by the rigid separation between heaven and earth, humanity and divinity, eternity and time—between Word and flesh.
The dividing wall was beyond high.
The social distance was six worlds.
Then God launched Christmas.
Why is it really so unbelievable, and why does it work?
God gives away power.
The dream of Jimi Hendrix—when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world
will know peace—is an unthinkable strategy Washington will never try.
God does: God gives away power, and invites us to follow.
Who among us will celebrate Christmas rightly? Dietrich Bonhoeffer asks.
Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.
Oh Lord, you have created all; how did you come to be so small?
John does not tell us how, but he tells us why.
God gives away power...to us, for us.
It is not enough for God to become human; God becomes human to make us divine.
To all who received him, who trusted in his name, he gave power to become children of God.
All the dignity, rights, privileges, prestige, and immortality of the eternal, all glorious
Word is not only given away, it is offered as a free gift to us.
God not only shows up, God gives us all God has and is.
This is grace upon grace.
This is love so generous and intimate it terrifies us, bewilders us.
It is too beautiful and bountiful and unimaginable to trust, yet it is also true.
Our familiar, daily darkness is much more sensible and comfortable than this explosion of light.
But clear your eyes and rearrange your mind and open your heart, because this light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.