Our January 2 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The January 9 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. With an upturn in county COVID cases, we recommend masks even for those who are vaccinated.
We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.
Jeremiah 31:7-14 | Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14 | John 1:[1-9] 10-18
Mystery. That is the theme for today, actually for the whole Season of Christmas, and most other parts of the Church Year. Today, it is: The Mystery of the Incarnation.
Most people love a good mystery. It might be a mystery novel, a “whodunit,” or a mystery on television or at the movies. The joy of that type of mystery is trying to figure out the ending, before you get to the end. Who committed the murder? Who is the real bad guy. Ruth and I watch a lot of British, but also Canadian and Australian mysteries. We have the Acorn app, and the BBC app on our television. Why do we watch, especially the British mysteries? They are a whole lot better than the American ones. American mysteries go from the crime, to the questioning, to the car chase, followed by the shootout scene, and ends with the resolution, and cute remark by someone on the crime team. They are predictable. Part of the joy of the mystery is going through all of its twists and turns, trying to figure out what was really going on, and who the real villain was. We’re watching one now called “McCallum,” starring John Hannah, it keeps you on the edge of your seat for the whole one and a half hours of each episode. The difference between American vs. British mysteries is pretty simple. Americans like a lot of action on the screen. The British prefer character development in the plot. I’m 64 now. I’m tired of a lot of action on the screen. And with character development, there’s nothing like a good mystery.
Mysteries are like puzzles. Many of us like puzzles. I have told you before, personally am addicted to puzzles. I will sit up all night working on a jigsaw puzzle, until I can’t focus my eyes anymore, just to finish it, and see the whole picture – and of course, put in the last piece (that’s the one that counts). I got two jigsaw puzzles for Christmas. They will be opened soon. Or, I love crossword puzzles. One of my favorites is the New York Times puzzle. It tends to be wickedly clever. Some of them take me days to complete. But the joy is figuring them out.
If you think about it, we are surrounded by puzzles and mysteries. We face them every day. Why do automatic transmissions come standard on a new car, but standard transmissions don’t come automatically? Why if we send a package via a ship, is it called cargo; but if we send it by an automobile, it is a shipment? Why do hot dogs come ten in a package, and buns come in packages of eight? The only way to break even is to buy 40 hot dogs and 40 buns! Actually, I know half of the answer to that one. The baking pans for the buns had places for eight buns. But what is the problem with the hot dogs?! I think that one is a conspiracy. Want a really strange one? What is time? The present physics theory is that time is caused by gravity. It has to do with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Think about that one for a while. When you have that one figured out, go back and solve the hot dog issue!
Those are common mysteries. Today, we think of the uncommon, the extraordinary, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” Now there is a mystery. In the western Church, for centuries, we have tried to figure out the Incarnation. The Eastern, Orthodox Church, just revels in it. They just love having a mystery. The Orthodox Church doesn’t even want to come up with THE answer to that one. They want as many answers as possible. Even if they contradict each other.
But we have to try to figure it out. Why, and how, would God come to us, as a human being? How, is easy (don’t try to figure this one out), the virgin birth: “conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary.” He comes to us fully divine, and yet fully human. We accept that, and even proclaim it as an article of faith in the creeds. But why?
The why part of the question is a bit harder actually. Why would God humble himself to become a human being, to experience and endure all that his creatures undergo? I mean one of the most enlightening things that I ever heard a theologian utter had to do with the suffering of Christ. He said that we think of Jesus suffering almost exclusively at Holy Week. In reality all of the life of Christ was suffering. St. John touches on that this morning, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” That is the suffering of rejection.
But the best answer for the why part of the Incarnation question also comes from St. John. It comes later in John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” That clears up the mystery of the Incarnation quite a bit. Why does God come to us, as one of us? Because of love, love for God’s creation, love for us. And to save us from our sin by His love.