|Today’s scripture readings:
|Sermon audio unavailable|
In the beginning was an Exquisite Melody. The Melody was with the Composer, and the melody was the Composer. The Melody resonated in her bones. It was the song she woke up to every morning, the song that was stuck in her head all day long. In the quietness of a still evening it was the song that played lightly in the background of her subconscious. At night it was the song that lulled her to sleep. Unlike the songs that get stuck in our heads, this was a Melody that the Composer never tired of hearing. Rather, it was a Melody that she treasured. In a strange way, the Melody defined who she was. It was part of her, part of who she perceived herself to be. Her image of herself was wrapped up in this Melody. The Melody shaped her identity. It captured, in a way, the very essence of her being.
For years the Composer tried to tell others about the Melody. It was, after all, so deeply a part of her life and her being that she wanted to share it with the people she loved. So she would hum the Melody for these people; but that never really did the Melody justice. She would try to describe the instrumentation and the harmonization, but nobody ever really grasped the complexity of the composition that she heard in her head. In fact, nothing she did could really make the Melody known to others. The Melody was always lost on those with whom she tried to share it. It grieved the Composer that she couldn’t share this Melody with the ones she loved.
And so, finally, the composer decided to put the Melody down on paper. Painstakingly, she set to the task of placing each note on the music staff. For the first time, she realized, she was expressing this Melody—expressing her very self—in ways she never had before. It was an exciting and yet a scary thing. To reveal something to the world that had once been entirely private—it was an act that made her vulnerable. She realized that putting the Melody down on paper and making it public meant that the Melody was no longer “hers.” It was “out there,” available for mass consumption, free to be interpreted and remixed by others as they would. Perhaps some people wouldn’t even like the Melody that was so dear to her, so much a part of her being.
In fact, as the Melody was published and introduced to the public, it was met with mixed reviews. Some just couldn’t make any sense of it at all. It was unlike anything they’d ever heard before. They heard world-famous orchestras perform the Melody and rejected it as mere noise. They just couldn’t understand what was so special about it. It pained the Composer to know that some people would never appreciate something that was so close to her heart. She had to force herself not to take it personally when she read negative reviews. The Melody was a part of who she was, something that grew out of the very core of her being; and a negative evaluation of her composition she experienced as an attack on her very self.
But the negative reviews weren’t the whole story. Some people who really sat with the Melody and listened to it carefully actually fell in love with it. In fact, the more time they spent with the Melody, the more they studied the intricacies of the composition, the more they loved it. The incredible richness of the Melody became more and more apparent the more intimately they got to know it.
But what was most remarkable about the Melody, these people discovered, was what it revealed to them about the Composer. The people who loved the Melody and listened to it over and over again, who heard something new in the Melody each time they listened to it, whose appreciation of the Melody deepened over time—these people began to feel like they actually knew the Composer. They had never met her or spoken to her. They didn’t even know what she looked like; they’d never seen her before. But the Melody gave them a glimpse into the Composer’s identity and personality. They felt a sort of connection with the Composer that was inexplicable. The Melody revealed the Composer to them, and when they heard the Melody, they knew the Composer.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was a part of God’s very self. The Word could no more be separated from God than our minds can be separated from our bodies. One could not really be distinguished from the other. Just as our mind is the part of our body that determines our behaviors and drives our actions, so the Word was that part of God that directed God’s activity. The Word contained all of God’s hopes and desires, all that God planned to do. It encompassed all that God envisioned for creation. In a way, the Word defined who God was. The Word shaped God’s identity. It captured, in a way, the very essence of God’s being.
For millennia God tried to share her Word with creation. The Word was, after all, so deeply a part of who God was that she wanted to share it with the people she loved. So God gave the law to the people in an attempt to reveal to them her intention for humankind. God’s intention was that peace and justice should be the foundation for their relationships with one another. But the people misused and flagrantly disobeyed the law; and God realized that this attempt to share the Word with the people had been unsuccessful. So God tried again. God sent the prophets to speak out against hatred and injustice, and to denounce all that contradicted God’s Word, God’s will for creation. But despite their best efforts, even the prophets failed to convey God’s Word to the people; the people continued in their broken ways. No matter what God did, it seemed, nothing could really make God’s Word known to the people. The Word was always lost on those with whom God tried to share it. It grieved God that she couldn’t share her Word with the ones she loved.
And so, finally, God took drastic measures to communicate her Word to the people. There was only one way the people were going to know God’s Word, and so God did something unimaginable and incomprehensible: God birthed the Word into a human being. The Word became flesh. All of God’s hopes and desires, all of God’s plans and intentions—all of these things were embodied in a person. For the first time, God was expressing the Word—expressing God’s very self—in ways she never had before. For the first time, the people could perceive the Word with all of their senses; they could interact with the Word in ways previously unimaginable. They could see and hear and touch this fleshly Word and know God’s will for their lives together. For God, making the Word flesh was an exciting and yet a scary thing. It was an act that made her incredibly vulnerable. The Word no longer existed “up there” with God, but “down here” on earth, among us. Putting the Word into the world in the form of a human being meant that the Word no longer belonged exclusively to God; it was “out there,” available for mass consumption, free to be interpreted and critiqued by others as they would. Here on earth, the Word would be tested and challenged by human beings. Here on earth, the Word would be subjected to the same forces of evil and death that all earthly beings encounter daily. To breathe the Word into a fleshly human was a vulnerable act, and God knew it; but God also knew that it was the only way she could communicate the Word to the people she loved.
As people encountered the Word made flesh, some were skeptical. Why would a God who lives above the chaos of human existence stoop to the level of humans and reveal the Word to people in the form of a lowly baby? Why would a God who transcends time and space enter into this finite world to reveal such an intimate part of God’s being to mere humans? It contradicted all that they had come to know about God. Some just couldn’t make any sense of it at all.
But there were others—people who acknowledged that it was all very strange and confusing, but who were nonetheless drawn to this Word made flesh. Rather than trying to make sense of it using human reason, they suspended disbelief and simply listened. The more they interacted with this incarnate Word, the more they were mesmerized by what they heard and saw. The more they learned, the more they wanted to know. They recognized that there was something special about this enigmatic figure, and they wanted to be a part of it.
But what was most remarkable about this fleshly Word, the people discovered, was what it revealed to them about God. The people who interacted with the Word, who were intrigued by what they heard and saw and kept coming back for more—these people began to realize that, through the Word made flesh, they were coming to know God herself. They had, of course, never met God or spoken to God. They didn’t even know what she looked like; they’d never seen God before. But the incarnate Word gave them a glimpse into who God is and what God is all about; the Word revealed to them what God wanted from them, how God wanted them to live with one another. Most of all, the mere fact of the Word’s presence among mortal human beings revealed the depth of God’s love for creation. That God would risk so much, that God would make herself so vulnerable by birthing her Word into our broken world to be with us in all of our pain and suffering—that was an act of unspeakable love. And so when these people encountered the Word made flesh, they encountered God. And when they encountered God in this incarnate Word, they encountered love.