Principle Mass of Christmas
The Gospel. John 1. 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were mad by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, that lighteth every man tat cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, but the world knew him not. He came unto his own, but his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
How many people here, CLERGY EXCLUDED, know the definition of the term “hypostatic union”? I know, it just sounds like a term that theologians and philosophers might throw around over martinis, doesn’t it? But for Christians, and particularly on this night, this term has a special significance; for on this night we are witnesses to something special, something wonderful beyond comprehension. Tonight, we are witnesses to the Incarnation of God.
When we speak about a “hypostatic union”, we are talking about the joining together of two very different natures in one entity. If I were to be flippant about it, I might use as an example the combination of gin and vermouth that make up those martinis I referred to earlier. But for our purposes, this example falls far short of being adequate when we contemplate the Incarnation.
The reason why it falls short is that the combining of earthly substances cannot compare with the joining together, the union, of Divine and human that we celebrate on this night. And while the reality of each union may produce an intoxicating effect on us, the former can produce only a loss of control and sensibility, while the latter can produce only a true and Holy fulfillment.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. I have no doubt that the term “Word”, or in the Greek, “Logos”, has been explained to you by many here at St. James who are far more learned than I. Suffice it to say, in my Readers Digest version, that the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, the Reason of God, is God Himself. The Word of God can no more be separated from God than our own thoughts and minds can be separated from us. When we say, “of God”, we are talking completely about the nature of God.
We, as human beings, have our particular nature, of course. As creatures of this world, and as members of a fallen humanity, we are subject to any number of temptations, not the least of which is the desire for personal gratification and comfort. Survival is our most basic instinct, and the thought of confronting anything that threatens that survival is unnerving to us. We are subject to fear, pride, and greed. We have an aversion to anything that might cause us pain, whether physically or emotionally. These are all things that make up our human nature.
But God’s Nature is almost awe-inspiring in its simplicity; Love. God is not only all about Love, but as St. John tells us, God IS Love. Beyond any profoundly worded description that any apologist or theologian can put to us, none expresses the Nature of God better than that; God IS Love.
What God loves is put with equal simplicity; Us. “So God loved the world”. He loves all of His Creation. He loves us all more than we can imagine, more than we can comprehend. His love for us is all-encompassing, all-consuming. His love for us is complete in the truest sense of that word. His love for us is there 24X7 and has been there since the beginning; since the moment that He Created us.
So what, if anything, does God hate? Well, that is also put with equal simplicity; sin. The sin that made us a fallen humanity. The sin that we have allowed to infuse us and become almost a part of our nature. The sin that keeps us from seeing, understanding, accepting, and being grateful for His complete Love for us.
So, what does God do in response to our fallen nature? Well, in Old Testament times, God tried any number of “tough love” actions. Exiles, enslavements, being conquered by any number of heathen or pagan kingdoms. But none of that seemed to work for very long. Then God, as any parent would, took the final step; we made Him come down here Himself.
But of course, it wouldn’t do to just come to earth and start boxing our collective ears. He’d tried that already. So God decided to SHOW us what He’d been trying to tell us for all those millennia. There IS a way back to God. There IS a way to truly follow Him and to Love Him. There IS a salvation available to us all. He would give us the perfect example.
But in order for God to do this, He had to present this message in a way that we could understand; or at least, have a chance to understand. He had to put it in our own language, so to speak. And of course, the best way to speak to us in our own language, was to become one of us.
God, in His infinite Wisdom, decided to take on our human nature; our true human nature. God took on our human form and subjected Himself to all the temptations and afflictions that we experience every day. He was tempted by pride, fear, and greed. He was tempted by the infliction of pain, both psychological, and physical. God subjected Himself to all the experiences of an ordinary human when He took on our human form.
But, in His infinite Wisdom, God also showed us that we don’t have to succumb to those temptations. Through His actions in His human form, God showed us how we may respond to temptation and remain faithful to Him. In His infinite Wisdom, He showed us that there is another answer. In His infinite Wisdom, he showed us that the human form does not have to be a handicap to realizing the Love of God.
And His infinite Wisdom is, as I already mentioned, His Reason. And His Reason, is His Word. And His Word cannot be separated from Him, because it is “of God”, and is therefore of the very nature of God. And, as we all know, God is Love. And His Word took on human form; And His LOVE was made flesh.
God is Devine. God is Love. God took on human form as an expression of that Love. A true joining of the Divine and human nature. A joining undertaken so that we could all see and understand and comprehend His loving nature. A hypostatic union of God’s nature and our own for which we should be ever grateful from the depths of our souls.
We all know the rest of the story, and in any event, that’s for other sermons much later in the Church year. For tonight, we celebrate the beginning of our journey as Christians. We celebrate the assurance of our Salvation. We celebrate that He has so loved us that He came to us in the Person of His only Son, to the end that all that believe on him should not perish, but have eternal life. We celebrate the hypostatic union between God and man. We celebrate the Incarnation of God. We celebrate the birth of a child. We celebrate the birth of Christ.