Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Second Sunday of Christmas
texts: John 1:10-18; Ephesians 1:3-14; Jeremiah 31:7-14
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
It’s a convenient lie we tell ourselves, that it’s hard to discern God’s will.
When people do great evil in God’s name, we know that’s not what God wants. When the Church acts in ways of cruelty or rigidity, when Christians spout racism and hatred as if it is of Christ, we’re outraged, and we know, this is not God’s will.
But when it comes to our lives, we sometimes act as if what God wants, what God dreams for this world, what God hopes for from us is a mystery. How can we know God’s will? It’s complicated, hard to discern. Life is complicated, too. So, sometimes, we say, that’s just the way it always will be. This is convenient, because we don’t have to understand anything we don’t want to, or see in any way we aren’t used to seeing, or do anything we’re uncomfortable doing.
Today John exposes our lie. John proclaims the unknowable, unfathomable Triune God who made all things is now known to us. Of course it’s impossible for us to grasp the fullness of the God. But John says everything we need to know, everything that is in God’s heart for us and for this world is now evident to us, known.
“No one has ever seen God,” he says. “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
So we have no more excuses. We can’t justify our ignorance, our narrow vision, or our inactivity on the grounds that we aren’t sure what God wants. Because the Son of God has become one of us and taken on our body and has shown us God’s heart. Told us everything. Lived for us everything we need to know. If we want to know the truth of God’s heart, we look to Jesus.
And now we know the heart of God, we can’t pretend otherwise.
The Son of God said peacemakers are blessed, and God’s heart is that we pray for our enemies, love them. We can no longer play with the idea of justified war or condone violent response of any kind and say it’s what God wants. When someone strikes us, we are to turn our cheek. Non-violent resistance isn’t passive and isn’t cowardly, it’s Christ’s way, and therefore God’s way. Now that we know this, we can’t pretend we don’t.
The Son of God said God’s full law is done when we love God with our everything and love our neighbor as ourselves. We can no longer pretend we don’t have to love certain people, or that we aren’t sure how God wants us to act towards some. We can’t say some aren’t our neighbors, because the One who knows God’s heart opened “neighbor” to mean all people, even those we disagree with, even those who aren’t like us. Now that we know love is the center of what God wants from us, we can’t pretend we don’t.
Knowing God’s heart for the world means we are called to see the world through God’s heart. We can’t pretend otherwise.
We can’t see things the way we’ve always seen them, and now knowing that they are destructive and broken, pretend that we don’t see that. Seeing through the heart of God means seeing the evils of systems that oppress while making others like us rich, not lying and saying, “it’s more complicated than that”. Seeing with God’s heart means seeing things that are going to make us uncomfortable.
The Son of God also said that if we look at those who are hungry, or thirsty, or sick, and those who are imprisoned, or naked, or strangers, we are seeing God. Seeing with God’s heart means seeing that those whom the world calls the least are where God is, and if we want to be with God, where we’ll be.
Now that we know the heart of God, we can’t pretend not to see the world with the same heart.
And knowing and seeing don’t matter if we won’t act with the heart of God. We can’t pretend otherwise.
If we won’t be peacemakers in our personal lives and in our public discourse and in how we encourage our leaders. If we won’t pray for those who hate us and are our enemies. If we won’t change systems that make life impossible for so many, even if that means loss for us. If we won’t care for Jesus’ least and lost, those who are God for us.
As long as we claim ignorance of God’s will for us and the world, we don’t have to see differently. As long as we don’t have to see as God sees, we can sit idly by while the world falls apart. But now that we know, now that we see, we can’t pretend we can do nothing.
But there is deep Good News in John’s claim, too: the Son of God has not only made God known to us. Through the Son we receive power to become children of God ourselves.
Hear that again: John says the Son makes the heart of God known to us, and gives us the power to become children of God.
Paul says this in Ephesians, too: we’ve been adopted into God’s life as children and heirs, born in the Spirit of God. So we’re close to the Father’s heart, too. Listen to Paul: “With all wisdom and insight, God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, . . . a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him.” Because we are children and heirs, we know what was once mystery, we know God’s heart is to draw all things into the life of God.
Better yet, in the power of the Spirit we receive all the grace of being God’s children and heirs, we receive all God’s strength and courage, the ability and will we need to know, and see, and do what God’s heart wants for this world.
Jeremiah today reveals the fullness of God’s plan, when God’s heart’s desire comes to full fruit in this world.
The world will be a watered garden, young women will rejoice in the dance, young and old will be merry. God will turn the world’s mourning into joy, give gladness instead of sorrow, and all people will be satisfied with the bounty of the Lord.
That’s what will happen when God gathers all things together in Christ. That’s the heart of God for the people of this world.
Now we know. Now we can see. Now we can act. It’s no mystery anymore, thanks be to God. And as children of God, we now also get to be a part of unfolding the heart of God to the rest of world. What greater joy could there be?
In the name of Jesus. Amen