[Homily] 2015 Christmas – Abbot Joel

 Abbey 2015

Isaiah 52:7–10
Hebrews 1:1–6
John 1:1–18

Christmas day is traditionally filled with music, with carols whose message is one of peace and joy. We hear songs about the messiah king being born… In our first reading from Isaiah, we hear a chorus also. But first there is the soloist’s voice: a messenger is running over the hills bearing good news and singing in a loud voice announcing to Jerusalem: “Your God is King!” …In the days before telegrams, let alone email and cell phones, there were two ways to send a message back home from the battle field. The commander wrote a note to describe the outcome or he sent a trusted messenger who would verbally announce and proclaim the victory. So Isaiah sees the messenger and hears the message, Your God is King! He has won the battle. There is peace! You are saved, you are safe! The messenger Isaiah sees is bearing good news, what we call Gospel. Isaiah has many words to describe the message but only one phrase to describe the messenger: He has beautiful feet. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him bringing good news.” The feet of the messenger are beautiful because they can run over the hills toward Jerusalem, they are beautiful because of the message their master is carrying. Beautiful feet, beautiful messenger, beautiful message.

When the beautiful messenger is seen by the watchmen of Jerusalem, then chorus begins: they too shout for joy and it is as though the victory has come home and is effective already. What the watchmen see is God leading his people back from captivity and exile; he is bringing them home. Jerusalem is being restored. The ruins of the city are being transformed  And when the begins to happen the voices increase and the music gets louder. In the transformation of Jerusalem the people are comforted, they know they are redeemed: the enemy no longer controls their life. They are free again, they have a king who has fought for them.

Then Isaiah sees God baring his arm, the arm of victory. But it is not just for a restored Jerusalem. This vision of a God being King for his people, leading them and causing such joy and a wild chorus is a sight for all. What God has done for one people, God will do for all. It is not only Israel that has a king, it is the nations that have also been saved and freed. The music emanating from Jerusalem sets up a chorus around the world.

The Gospel of John read today is about a message, about a word. We hear of the journey of that Word.  That word, that message, begins with God and in God. Indeed we learn that when God spoke that Word the world came into being. God’s message was creative. Its creative power had an effect, a victory if you will. Chaos and darkness were scattered. God word produced light. The primordial victory: our God’s Word conquers darkness. The darkness tries hard to defeat the light coming from the Word but it cannot. The victory is permanent. The beauty of light lasts. So the Word God speaks creates our world. But God is not finished; his word is not something that bounces around above our world. God’s word enters our world. As gospel puts its so physically and graphically, God’s word became flesh and set up a tent among us. The glory of God that once appeared over Israel’s tent in the wilderness and journeyed with the people for years in the desert now lives in the nearby tent in flesh like ours. Or from the wisdom tradition, the wisdom who guided creation at the beginning has now found a home with humanity.

Now this Word that created and became flesh had a messenger who announced his coming. We know him as John the Baptist. While the evangelist does not say his feet are beautiful, he does say that he bears witness to the light of the Word. He will testify to what the word is all about. John is the messenger who knows his place and his place is to lead us to the Word, the truth and the light. Therein is John’s beauty. Not to be the message but to be shaped by it. John can see that the creative moment of the Word, when its light burst over darkness, is not a thing of the past but a creative work taking place now.

The evangelist says that some people did not accept the light; they did not believe that the power of God at work in the beginning has created a new wonder and Word in human flesh. Or even more strongly, that the face of the one who spoke the first word is now speaking in human flesh in his Son. But for those who can see, who believe, then love beyond all telling has been made visible before their very eyes.

The evangelist is now the messenger. His message: Someone has come from the Father’s side, his son, and he has revealed his Father. So now it is possible to see the face of God in human flesh and not only live but live as a child of God. Those who see the face of God in human flesh, now belong to God.

As the prophet saw the ruins of Jerusalem restored to glory; so now those who see the face of God in the face of the Son have seen their humanity restored to its original dignity and beauty. The darkness of humankind is not its final state; its final state is light and an intimate relationship with God.

“How beautiful are the feet of the one who bears good news”…Yes, Christmas is about beautiful feet, the sound of beautiful feet. When God’s Word comes to the end of his journey among us, he calls attention to our feet. Yes, he gets down with a bowl and washes our feet. Yes, he touches our ordinary humanity, the lowest part of ourselves. The dirty and dusty part that has walked over everything imaginable. But in his washing of our feet, he reveals their beauty. I gave you an example, so you must do to one another. Yes, Jesus brought beauty back to our feet. And how are they beautiful? Because our feet speak a message of love, love found in words, love found in the way we are with one another and love found in the deed of willing to wash each other’s feet and so restore their beauty. Out of that beauty of service rises the song of love. From beautiful feet running to wash another’s feet arises the message of Christmas: God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.

Let us check our feet. The Word has come and washed them in his love. He has made them beautiful. Now our feet carry the message of that love. How beautiful are our feet running the paths of our world announcing “Your God is love and mercy, yes, grace upon grace!”

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