And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
~ John 1:14
Are you ready? That’s the question I often hear around this time of year when out and about. Of course, I understand what is meant by it, but can’t help thinking to myself, how could you ever be?
Last year, gravitational waves were detected from an event that happened over a billion years ago, long before humans even existed on the Earth. Two black holes, each much heavier than our sun, collided, causing the waves. Before they dramatically merged, these two black holes were orbiting each other 100 times per second.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can barely wrap my head around that. How could I ever be ready for the birth of the Creator of the Universe as a helpless, wee human infant? I can’t entirely wrap my head around it. I have often wondered what Gabriel thought when told by God to go to Mary with the annunciation message. OMG comes to mind.
One of the things I love about the Psalms is their rhythm of time. Many of them, while standing in the mire of present trouble, sing God’s praise for past saving graces. They sing it to themselves to shore up their trust and hope in God. They sing it to the future they have been called to entrust to God.
Psalm 98 has this rhythm of past, present, and future. It celebrates the recent end of trouble with a remembering of the past—of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness—but in raucous joy calls the celebration forward to when the LORD will judge the world with right-relationship and with equity.
The wonderful words in the beginning of John, chapter one, also hint at this rhythm of past, present, and future. The author starts by going all the way back to the beginning:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
That ground established, we are brought to what was the recent past of a particular man, John, who came as a witness to the particular light of Christ. And in Christ we are given the good news that all who receive Jesus are welcomed as children of God, that we too can join the ancient choir that sings of our hope and trust in the God reveled to us in Christ Jesus. This good news ripples forward millennia, lived and sung by generations. This is the best and truest Christmas gift we can give to our children.
On this Christmas Day, the rhythm of the liturgical year brings us once again to kneel at the manager, bringing with us the ache and pain of the world—Aleppo, the death grip of fentanyl, the age old sins of corruption and greed, arrogance, apathy, love withheld. Here, mired in trouble, we are called upon to sing of and trust in the steadfast love and faithfulness of our God with us, Emmanuel, whose incarnation changed everything:
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
The darkness is not overcoming it.
The darkness will not overcome it.
We live this and sing it, not only to shore up our own hope and trust in God but, God willing, together we sing to encourage future generations of faithful disciples of Christ, for the sake of the world God so loves.
O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
~ Psalm 98: 1