Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fourth Sunday in Advent

To my joy and anticipation, the fourth and final candle on our Advent wreath was lit this evening. Tonight again the Christchild comes.

Reading through the Gospel of John this month, I'm met with this strange but wonderful Christmas message of the Word made flesh who reveals the Father. Jesus says, "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:7, 9). The same goes in John's introduction to his Gospel narrative: "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (1:18).

But prior to Jesus' words in chapter 14 is the perplexing fact that, though he is "Lord and Teacher," he washes his disciples' feet and is among men as "one who serves" (Luke 22:27). Jesus never abandoned his full equality in being with God when he took on flesh in the womb of a poor peasant girl. He was still revealing the Father when he touched the ill, crippled, and unclean to heal them; when he was put to death in ignominy, abandonment, and shame. But how is it that in Jesus' deep acts of humility, meekness, and servanthood he truly reveals the Father? I cannot wrap my mind around this. How can God the Holy, the All-powerful, the Exalted, the Splendrous, be himself a God who serves? How is he, in his nature, a servant? How is this possible?

But Jesus shows us in his life and death that real authority looks far different than we perceive it with the eyes of the world. "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35). "He who is the least among you all--he is the greatest" (Luke 9:48). Is it not the mystery of Christmas and the judgment of God upon the world itself that the Light of Christ "shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" (John 1:5)?

Tonight and during the Christmas festival (that is, from today until Epiphany on January 6), let's pray with the blind beggar, "Lord, I want to see!" (Luke 19:41), that we might not try to find God in glory and power--these are the ways of the world, our sin and blindness--but as he has chosen to reveal himself: in a babe laid in a feed trough, the King of the world who has come to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

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