In the beginning was the Word…And the Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1)
Can something be both timeless and timely, grounded in some eternal, universal divinity and yet so specific as to feel custom-ordered for the moment? With God, of course, the answer is a resounding and joyful YES! The miracle of the Incarnation asserts this right at the outset of the story of Jesus. The Word of God was in the beginning with God, timeless, eternal, universal, creator, redeemer, lover of humankind. Yet, there in the moment in Israel centuries ago, that timeless and eternal Word entered into the particular moment in Israel—a timely entrance to save, to heal, to reconcile—to love.
That timeliness of the Incarnation that we celebrate next week does not merely belong to the Palestine of the first century. No, what we celebrate next week constitutes that very timeliness in our life today. The Incarnation of Word didn’t just happen at one moment in time, it offers to each of us a present and timely gift of the presence of God—Emmanuel, God with us, today.
Have we experienced a more timely need for the in-breaking of God’s love than this particular Christmas? I don’t believe we have in my lifetime. For me, this Christmas feels like more of a breaking of time, a moment completely disconnected from our and my story, separated from the habits and practices that have grounded this time of year. I feel apart from the timelessness of this season in a way that makes me wonder if we can find the Christ child at all.
This year will be neither the first nor the last to feel this way, though. The fact is that the coming of Christ into the world and into our lives does not depend on maintaining absolute continuity with past practices and habits. Those are nice, to be sure, but they’re not necessary. God can and will be present in the coming once again of Jesus in whatever ways we are able to celebrate that miracle this year.
We will, as we always have, celebrate the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Word into our lives, with glorious liturgies. Our in-person and online worship, though new in some ways, will be both timeless and timely, grounding us in the eternal changelessness of God’s presence and completely new and fitting the moment this year just right.
I hope to see you all in-person or online next week!