7 Epiphany (Feb 23, 2014)
Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18
1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23
Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18
1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23
1 Corinthians 3:1–9
The Rev. Franklin Wilson
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
“Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.”
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
It’s all about the “except.” Paul tells the Corinthians that he “decided to know nothing among [them], except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” This seems unwise. The Corinthians cherished both wisdom and spirit, prided themselves in impressive knowledge and elegant speech. So, for Paul to say, “I decided to know nothing among you,” suggests that he may intend to shock his readers, to get into their heads, maybe even bait them a bit. Still, for Paul to know Jesus Christ and him crucified is to have the mind of Christ. The crucified Christ is righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees.
Even so, some Corinthians disparage Paul— apparently behind his back. Some deride his unimpressive speaking style, his lack of credentials, his questionable authority. After all, he wasn’t one of the Twelve; he hadn’t traveled with Jesus and shared his earthly ministry. Sure, Paul claimed to have “seen” the crucified and risen Lord, but what did that mean? Even if Paul had, “seen the Lord,” did that make him a true Apostle? Was Paul’s teaching a product of his own inventive mind, or (as he claimed) had he received it from the Lord himself, independent of all human authority and, was it therefore, apostolic?
Paul’s situation raises several questions, chief among them, perhaps, the obvious: must we love teachers, pastors, bishops and fellow parishioners when we neither like nor understand them? In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes several claims which, if true, will require or perhaps inspire our obedience to his teaching. In the first place, he claims the authority of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, so that (he says) our faith might “rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
According to Paul, our human wisdom opposes God’s divine wisdom. Human wisdom is obvious: it succeeds, wins the day, and triumphs over all sorts of perceived evils—for instance, human wisdom, put Jesus of Nazareth to death because, according to human wisdom, Jesus was a menace to civil society, an offense to common decency: he ate with sinners and transgressed religious convention. According to human wisdom, it was necessary for Jesus to die in order to keep the peace and maintain civil order. Yet, according to Paul, Christ crucified epitomizes the futility of human wisdom, and the triumph of divine wisdom. To the mature in faith, the crucified Christ reveals divine wisdom in what looks stupid, and divine strength in what appears weak. God loves disordered human beings enough to suffer rejection, abuse, and torture at our hands—enough to die for us. The death and resurrection of Christ, transforms the cross from a sign of torture and death into the image of divine wisdom, beauty, and love. This is the revelation of God’s Spirit—this is the faith Luther says we can not obtain by our own reason and strength. This is the “mind of Christ.”
Paul writes all this to the Corinthians, a congregation with which he was locked in bitter dispute. In fact, according to a letter written by Clement, Bishop of Rome, at the close of the first century, so embroiled were the Corinthians in divisive religious dispute, the congregation died about the year 100. And, hard though it might be for the church to hear it, Paul had a hand in the congregation’s death—even as he had a hand in its birth. In Paul’s mind, at least, he was the congregation’s “father” in the faith. Yet, the pastoral care of his own child may have exceeded his paternal abilities.
One has the impression when reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that he’s reached his wits’ end. The two Corinthian letters bear a marked contrast with his well tempered writing to the Romans, or even his sharp-edged Galatian correspondence, to say nothing of his sweet epistle to the Philippians. Romans is a model of reasoned argument, Galatians a thing of impassioned (even heart-felt) emotion, and Philippians practically a Valentine card. But Corinthians sounds like a bitterly betrayed lover, someone whose feelings are so frayed their words hardly make sense—even when they bear a truth profound enough to raise the dead. Listen again to the Apostle’s rant: “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them….” Unspiritual fools: he almost says it.
Paul’s anger brings him perilously close to ad hominem name-calling. Yet, his signal assertion (“But we have the mind of Christ.”) makes all the difference between hysterical rant and redemptive proclamation. Notice: Paul says, “We have the mind of Christ.” In other words, even when we cannot stand one another, even when we don’t like each other, even when we doubt one another’s integrity, we have the mind of Christ. Christ saves and redeems enemies! Here is the mystery of God: nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, even we have the mind of Christ.
The Rev. Franklin Wilson
“But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?”
“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Does the bulletin cover convey terror? The Lord’s Presentation ought to. Malachi says, “The Lord whom you seek…” the one who will “suddenly come to his temple,” and then asks, “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” Malachi presumes no one can stand before God and life. Psalm 15 explores a similar question: “Lord who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill? Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right, who speak the truth from their heart, they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil to their friends; they do not cast discredit upon their neighbor …. They do not give their money in hope of gain, thy do not take bribes against the innocent….”
“…. who can stand when [God] appears?” The obvious answer is “No one.” None of us leads a blameless life. None of us meets the severe requirements laid out either here or elsewhere. Even if we were able to shun gossip and speak the truth from our hearts, who among us gives their money “without hope of gain”? Any gain! Not merely a higher rate of interest, but even the thanks, appreciation, and honor we all crave?
Lord, who may abide on your holy hill? But maybe it depends on which hill we’re talking about. Is it Horeb, the mount of Moses? Or, perhaps, Zion and Solomon’s temple? Perhaps the Mount of Transfiguration? Or that anonymous mountain on which Jesus preached his famous sermon? Any or all of these or a hundred others might well qualify as holy—for some, even Bascom in these parts (all 74 feet of it—barely a rise where I come from) or—nine hundred miles to the southeast—“Capitol Hill,” or perhaps “Bunker Hill,” “Stone Mountain,” “Nob Hill” or (more simply) “the Heights” in nearly any city like Brooklyn, Washington, or Richmond. Who doesn’t treasure the holy heights of wealth, or political correctness, or academic recognition? The heady heights of power under the guise of social consciousness often appear most holy. But here—at the Presentation of Our Lord—it’s the Temple, and the holiness of God alone that signifies; the peculiar distinction human beings may seek but never obtain—at least on our own. Luther’s dictum rings true: “I cannot by my own reason or strength come to my Lord Jesus Christ or believe in him….”
“…. who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” God alone, and those few God calls and appoints in his stead. Yet they invariably reside either in or near the halls of madness. Don’t imagine that Mary and Joseph were mainstream suburban socialites, people of the first rank, pillars of society, engines of economic of success. They would have been oddball outcasts; pious, perhaps even zealous for the law of the Lord. But that sort seldom enjoys elevated society.
Even more so, Simeon and Anna: two more eccentric oddballs could hardly be imagined; the Adam and Eve of local ridicule, the kind of people at which priests roll their eyes, shake their heads, and tell stories in the rectory. I mean, who in their right mind “never leaves” the Temple? What ordinary citizen believes they will not taste death until they have seen the Lord’s messiah? What first century woman could possibly have lived a decent life for more than 6 decades following her husband’s death? Begging from religious pilgrims would have been her only income. And religious pilgrims are seldom generous, requiring all their resources to pay the priest, purchase sacrificial animals, and room and board along the way. Neither Simeon nor Anna present likely images of conventional holiness, and yet God chose them: the crazed and even mad agents of Christ’s reception at the center of holiness. Of course, Luke says they did all the law required; but the speeches he records are not those of noteworthy priests, pastors, or rabbis. We hear instead wild ravings from the borderlands of madness, the kind of things respectable people never dare think or say:
“Lord now you let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled; for my own eyes have seen your salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of your people, Israel.” Simeon’s words reveal his eccentricity: no mainstream Jew of the first (or any) century would have declared a tiny child the light to both Israel and the nations. No wonder he says the Child’s mother will also suffer a sword through her heart. Doubtless Simeon shared the same fate. The Child born as contradiction (a sign that will be opposed) brings opposition and violence to all who welcome him. Like Anna the prophetess, those who look for the redemption of Jerusalem, will likely spend their lives, only to have their tireless efforts crowned by rejection, betrayal, and a cross.
Lord who may ascend your holy hill? This Child is and does what is right. Welcomed by Anna and sung by Simeon, he embodies the righteousness of God nailed to a cross, pierced and beaten, dead and buried, for all the blame-full, who do wrong, speak lies, slander with our tongues, who do evil to our friends and discredit our neighbor, and lend our money in hope of maximum gain. This Child presented by Mary and Joseph is the Light of all, the hope and comfort of all. Presented here, he is the Bread of life, our salvation, the hope of all the earth. Presentation indeed—in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 27:1, 4–9
1 Corinthians 1:10–18
1 Corinthians 1:1–9
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”
“Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
“But John answered [Jesus], saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered [John], ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’”
“I need to be baptized by you….” John thought he was in the religion business—exhorting people to change their ways, obey God’s law, do the right thing, be baptized, and demonstrate changed lives. And, the truth is, until Jesus came to him, John was (in one sense) “in the religion business.” That is, he was preaching the Kingdom of Heaven come near, preaching a washing of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, preparing the way for the Stronger One—the one whose shoes (in John’s estimation) he wasn’t even worthy to stoop down and untie.
But then came Jesus. Notice the direction: John didn’t come to Jesus, but the other way round. Jesus came to John. And, in Jesus’ coming to John, the entire religious direction gets reversed: God comes to humankind, high becomes low, in becomes out, low becomes high, and out becomes in; those most religious become least acceptable, and those least acceptable become the most welcomed. Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. Against every religious inclination, Jesus comes to John and submits to him.
Contrary to all religious sensibility: Jesus comes to be baptized by John. John protests. He protests in proper religious fashion. Religiously speaking, John is correct: Jesus is greater than he. The true greatness of Jesus is demonstrated not in his grandeur, but in his humility; not in his lording it over others, but in his submission to those lower than he, his condescension to humiliation, to suffering a baptism for the remission of sins when in fact he has no personal need for such a baptism. His has no religious need in himself, but a loving desire for all—for all estranged from the Father’s goodness.
Elsewhere, John will say—which is true in a cosmic sense but false in chronological terms—that Jesus was before him. In time, Jesus was not before John: he was born after John; yet in primacy of person Jesus was before John and always will be. As the Creed says, “he was begotten of the Father before all worlds, God from God, light from light, very God of very God, begotten not made.” John sensed this, knew this, said this, and acted upon this. He protested, refused, and contradicted: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Primacy of person does not trump primacy of place: “When you go to a feast, take the lowest place….”
John had religion down pat. He understood it. He lived it: hear God’s just command, change your ways, demonstrate new direction, and receive God’s assurance. Religiously speaking, John needed to be baptized by Jesus. John needed to be baptized by the “stronger One.” Even John needed to hear God’s just command, change his ways, demonstrate his new direction, and receive God’s assurance. Even the greatest of those born of women, even John the forerunner, needed what all need. The only trouble is, when it comes to God, even the best religion fails. Not even the best religion can “fulfill all righteousness.” For that we need something more: the baptism of Jesus’ suffering and death. His baptism in the River by John is but a foretaste of the bitter feast yet to come.
In some sense, when John baptized Jesus, time stopped, sin’s reversal (suggested in Mary’s ‘Yes,’) moved forward, and God’s purpose for all creation was further hinted. That purpose is still in the process of being revealed, but its outcome has been verified in Christ’s death and resurrection. His baptism by John is but the first installment, the down payment on promised reality now hidden—the initial plunge into death’s murky depths, the darkest and deepest portion of which will occur on the cross, in the tomb, and his descent into hell. This is what the fulfillment of all righteousness suggests, and this is what the Baptism of Our Lord initiates.
Both Isaiah and Matthew speak of “delight,” the Lord’s delight in the person of the Servant, the gentle slave, the obedient worker, so quiet and subtle as to go almost unnoticed: “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” So then, following the baptism of Jesus, Matthew reports, “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased.’”
Jesus’ baptism by John, the Stronger One submitting to the religious act of a weaker one, reveals Jesus as the Servant in whom the Lord takes delight, the Son Beloved, well-pleasing to the Father. The Son is the Father’s delight, the completion of all righteousness—God’s alien purpose for the whole creation, not as a reward obtained through religious exchange, but a gift received, the lost found, the dead raised.
The death and resurrection of the Servant, the revelation of the stronger One not in religious terms, but in self-denying, suffering, and sacrifice, means that God delights not in the religiously pure, but in the broken restored. Peter puts it this way, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
More offensive words could hardly be spoken. God shows no partiality? What about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? What about Israel? What about David? What about Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Rahab, Hannah, Ruth, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus? What about the Church, the Bride of Christ? Well, what about them? With religious John, all may be read as signs of God’s partiality for religious people. Yet, in Christ, all may be read as signs of God’s impartial partiality for all the nations and peoples of the earth. We will ask, But do they fear God and do what is right? Good question! “You know the message he sent to…Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.” Maybe we should leave it at that: “preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.” He who is Lord of all fears God and who does what is right. Maybe our baptism isn’t into a new religion at all, but rather into the One who has by his death and resurrection, but all religion to rest. In Christ Jesus, the Lord has is partial or impartiality toward all people. May it be so for Seth and Kiersten. May it also be so for us, and for all those baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
“I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them.”
“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
It may be obvious to many, even most, but not to me. This time of year, I wonder: Why did the eternal Word become flesh? Why was he born a tiny infant when, presumably, he could have come as Caesar, Cleopatra, General Washington, or Aaron Rogers? Why not a champion come to win? Why come as a mere mortal to die and be raised? Is this what John means when he says, “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace”?
Speaking for myself, I’ve always had (and still do have) some question about John’s statement that: “we have all received grace upon grace.” Who does the “all” include? Does it really include all? Even those who adamantly desire not to be included? Or does it only include those who will to include God? Or, if God wills to include all, does that inclusion trump the wills of those who would be excluded?
For me, at least, it’s a puzzle. In my own mind, I go back and forth, though generally lingering longer on the God’s will trumping all side of the question. Though, even here, I find myself, like Abraham before the Almighty, clearing my throat, and nervously asking, “But would you act as a tyrant? Would you force those who wish no part of your grace upon grace to partake in it? Would you regard your human creatures the same as your rocks and trees? Mere collections of elemental stuff—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and all the rest—and, therefore, would you find yourself more convergent, say, with the materialism of Carl Sagan than, say, the spirituality of Pope Francis?”
Christmas addresses this question. The incarnation of Christ, the divine Word’s enfleshment as Mary’s child, proclaims the personalization of creation, and contradicts depersonalized-mechanical views of the universe. The incarnation of God as a human child hallows the material universe, reveals the humility of God, and the sanctifies willful persons.
Again, on the 12th Day of Christmas, it may seem odd to ask, but is “grace upon grace” a sufficient fullness? Wouldn’t it make more sense, bear more fullness if Christ had came to found one of the five so-called “great religions of the world”? Or, if he came as a forerunner to capitalistic enterprise? In keeping with “the spirit” of Christmas, wouldn’t Jesus bear greater fullness as an entrepreneurial agent of investment, profit, prosperity, and the next bottom line? In this way, Mary’s Child might prove a helpful forerunner to Santa, Rudolph, and the festive exercise of holly—jolly profit. Christ might then be dressed in green and gold, and cheerfully advance a potent seasonal combo of fruitcake, football, and beer. Like London in a Jane Austin novel, Christ’s fullness then becomes a diverting existential distraction: a prophylaxis against sickness, despair, and death!
But maybe John means “fullness” in a more subversive sense: Jesus come as an enemy mole, a sleeper planted to subvert and overthrow our selfish little lives. Jesus as an infantile Trojan Horse, an enemy clothed in the benign disguise of a child. What could be more deceptive than a mortal child “full of grace upon grace”?
What’s not to like about a baby? True enough, but until rather recently (and it’s yet the case in many places) the birth process managed to kill significant numbers of women. A rather different take on the unborn: infants as mother killers. It’s a touchy subject. We don’t like to be reminded of what we know, but would rather not know that we do know. What child-birth invariably teaches us: that life is out of our control; bad things happen; women, children, and men die—even kill each other. Giddy celebrations of the solstice, human potential, and what passes in pseudo-sophisticated circles for “spirituality” aside, the whole human exercise is hardly the benign phenomenon we pass ourselves off as.
Ask any Syrian refugee. Ask the resident of an Indian reservation. Or ask a citizen incarcerated in the War on Drugs. Or members of an Israeli village terrorized by Palestinian suicide bombers. Or Palestinian people terrorized by Israeli bulldozers, separation walls, roadblocks, and settlements. Or an unemployed auto-worker from Janesville whose benefits just ran out while the head of GM still takes home millions.
“From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace….” What fullness does John mean? Christ’s birth as a homeless refugee bears greater emptiness than fullness. His betrayal, rejection, and humiliating death overflow with emptiness. This is an absurd fullness: it’s either the fullness of a vacant, hapless, feckless, and alien universe gone wrong; or the fullness of a subversive enemy invasion.
Christ’s fullness shines from below—from the subversive poverty of a manger, the humiliation of rejection, the mortal danger of being chosen by God, the dubious favor of divine privilege, of righteousness lost, alienation obtained, and grace given. Given the infant child’s frailty, vulnerability, and mortality, maybe the unemployed autoworker, maybe the displaced Palestinian, maybe the Syrian refugee, maybe the lost native American comes closer than we know to the incarnate grace and truth of the Father’s glory.
“The Word became flesh and tented among us.” A weak, vulnerable, rejected, crucified, and risen Jew is the “fullness of grace upon grace.” As a thief in the night, he breaks in and steals the sin of the whole world. The fullness of “the Father’s grace and truth,” the fullness of God’s glory, is the theft of our sin. It’s a vulnerable child, a suffering and dying man. Killed in human flesh, by human flesh, in the name of religious righteousness, he shines in the darkness, the Light no darkness can overcome. Alienated beyond all hope, he is the incarnation of the Father’s long-suffering alien love. Born of a virgin, he is begotten from before the foundation of the world. Companion of sinners, friend of prostitutes and tax-collectors, collector of the off-scouring of the earth, Lover of losers, he loses all that we might obtain and be possessed by what we cannot otherwise have.
At this end of Christmas, the fullness of a 12th night-day, Christ has become both the beginning and the ending for all who doubt the end of their own misery, pain, and loss. The enemy of our death, he is the lover of our life, the eternal subversion of death by means of his crucified flesh and blood—the eternal new year’s feast. In him we all receive the fullness of grace upon grace, in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 2: 10–18
Matthew 2: 13–23
“The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
“The word became flesh and tented among us, full of grace of truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
“The word became flesh and tented among us, full of grace of truth.” “The Lord has bared his holy arm…and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Of course, we know what the Lord baring his “holy arm” means. Right? “The Lord has bared his holy arm….” Well, we hear “holy arm” and think something like, “God has shown his strength; the Lord has flexed his muscle; the Great King has demonstrated his power; God has revealed his ability to get what he wants.”
In this interpretive vein, God’s arm simply becomes a crude symbol for divine will. We all know, after all, that allusions to God in human terms are simply primitive anthropomorphisms; nothing more than antiquarian attempts to picture divinity in familiar terms, obsolete gestures toward trying to understand and express divine mystery in the more familiar, that is to day, human dimensions.
But what if, contrary to every inclination of the pseudo-sophisticated human spirit, what if God really does have an arm to bare? And not only an arm, but a leg (or even two), a head and thereby a requisite face, with eyes, ears, nose, and mouth? What if God really does have a body—and not just any body, but the body of a man, a human person, not only with head and neck and torso, arms, and legs, but with (as Paul has it) its less public parts as well? What then?
What if the baring of God’s holy arm is in fact, in history, and in faith, nothing less than the body and person of a human child named Jesus, born of a human mother named Mary? A child with a human voice and a changeable will and a unique “personality” reared amid a family, in a given neighborhood, within a unique municipality (Nazareth), part of an historic community (Jews), in a particular place (Galilee), at an ordinary time (When Rome ruled the known world.), speaking particular languages (Aramaic/Hebrew/Greek), expressing actual thoughts and ideas common to his own time and particular place? What then? Nowhere do we read that Jesus lacked an arm. Nowhere do we read that Jesus was simply an imagined invention of the desperate human mind. Only lately are we told that the “historicity” of Jesus lacks substantive supportive data. But what substantive data are there beyond the human telling? Beyond words like, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
St John’s language is anything but abstract: “The Word (not just any word, but “the” word which “was God”) became flesh (the mortal dying stuff of which we are made) and tented among us—that is, lived among us in common (even humble, peripatetic, wandering). By means of tenting flesh, John gets behind and beneath abstractions common to sophisticated human theory and the tendency to dismiss deep truth as mere poetic legend, wishful thinking, and the sort of stuff fabricated by simple minds. But the trouble is deepest truth is communicated precisely through poetic legend and little else. Poetic legend is the deep knowledge, the “science,” the “knowing” if we will, behind all knowledge, all “science,” and, in fact, behind who and what we are.
John reports the enfleshed Word full of grace and truth. Grace and truth may sound abstract, yet are anything but when considered within the context of a particular wandering rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth, a particular teacher of the Law, a remarkable friend and companion of public sinners, a lover of the poor, and a healer of the sick, the lame, the blind, and the deaf. But the grace and truth of such a singular man come home to roost not so much in his good deeds, as in his pathetic purpose, his betrayal, humiliation, suffering, death, and burial. But even these pale within the framework of Christ’s shocking gift of
peace, forgiveness, and mercy to those who betrayed, abandoned, and killed him. His absolute peace for sinners like us is nothing but the epitome of grace and truth: the truth of our gone wrong, and the grace of his mercy. The historical fact is that we don’t have mercy on those gone wrong. The poetic legend, the deepest truth, is that in the Word made flesh, in Jesus of Nazareth, God has mercy on all who are wrong.
The “Word became flesh” does not mean that things get less complicated, but more. As Cardinal Newman notes in his “development of doctrine,” the Word made flesh is not less complex, but more. More than we can either think or imagine. And the joining of the two, the conjoining of opposites illumines the wonder and mystery of God.
Like the harmonized Kyrie of Christmas Eve: suddenly we see and here a simple prayer (“Lord have mercy.”) in more complex tones. In the incarnation of God in the person of Christ Jesus of Nazareth, we are left to ponder more complex tones: the grace and truth of the Father’s only Son. Not as propositional abstraction, but as a human person, one of us—and yet more, all, everything, Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End for us, at Christmas, and forever. The crucified and risen Christ has come for us in Bread and Cup, the body and blood of Christ: the glory of God in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.