Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Baby Jesus - Christmas Love

Preached on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013
Scripture readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20
I have an old, old friend named John (I have several friends named John). This friend John, who is a computer genius, is a Buddhist.
He wasn’t brought up that way. He started out as a Southern Baptist. As an adult he converted and became a Roman Catholic, and from there he became a Buddhist. So, spiritually, he has gone on a long journey in a strange direction. He and I have talked and emailed about his journey any number of times.
John has told me why he became unsatisfied with the Christian faith. He uses a famous ancient Buddhist painting to illustrate his point. There is a painting of the Buddha pointing to the moon. The moon stands for reality and truth. The Buddha points to the truth as an advisor, or spiritual wise man.
My friend John thinks that Jesus could have been painted into a similar painting (of Jesus pointing to the moon). He feels that Christians have focused on Jesus, or even on Jesus’ finger, instead of seeing what Jesus was pointing to.
My friend John doesn’t believe that Jesus really meant, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” to refer to himself, except as an example of someone who truly knows and follows the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
My friend John likes to think of either Jesus or the Buddha pointing to the moon. John likes to think of himself as someone who points to the moon: pointing to truth, to reality, and to life.
Years ago I asked John what he would do if he saw the moon pointing to him. And he said, “I would run!”
But Jesus is like the moon pointing to us. We believe that Jesus is God, reality itself, become human. God became flesh and blood, as we are; not only out of compassion, but out of perfect attachment, out of sheer love.
This is a strange thing; I know. But it is impossible to be truly and fully human without knowing that the moon is pointing to you; pointing to each individual who lives, pointing to the whole world.
Some years ago Janet Camp and her kids went on a mission to orphanages in Russia. Her heart broke at the thought of the neglect that surrounded these children; how babies and little kids fall farther and farther behind in their growth and their development because they receive no loving attention. They receive no word or touch of love.
Babies and children need to be held, and hugged, and smiled at, and spoken to, and played with, if they are to grow, and develop, and thrive. They need to know that they are loved. They need to have their lives defined by the fact that they are real people who are really loved. Without this attentive love, young human lives wither. Babies will physically whither and even die.
Even adults wither without love. All human beings need this. They all need love pointing visibly to them, singling them out, telling them that they matter, telling them that they are important.
The primary thing is not for us to believe in ourselves, but for us to know that someone else believes in us. If all you have in life is a belief in yourself, you will not have a rich and happy life. If you have others who believe in you, then you have everything.
Even adults need to hear the words “I love you”, spoken clearly, either said aloud, or remembered loud enough in their memories. All of us need to know that someone is pointing to us, or has pointed to us, in the deepest way of love.
This is not an accident. This is not a result of evolutionary development. It is built into the very universe, because (in spite of all its apparent suffering and sin) the universe has been created, in love and for love, by a God who is love.
Our moon of reality is the God who created us and who came down from heaven in Jesus. God came down, like a moon coming down to earth (if such a thing could happen and not destroy the planet). God came down, in the baby in the manger, to point to each and every human being, including each of you, and to say, “I love you. I love you infinitely. I love each one as if you were my only one.”
Luke tells us about the meeting of some shepherds with some angels that happened when Christ was born. “Suddenly the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:9-11)
The angel of the Lord means the angel sent from God. The angel is like someone pointing to the moon.
The savior who is Christ the Lord means the savior who is Christ and who is God himself, pointing to you. Savior means someone who comes to the rescue. Savior is a word of compassion, and caring, and love.
The birth of the savior who is Christ the Lord is the birth of the one who loves you. He is God coming to earth to be your rescuer, the one who says, loudest in all the world, “I love you.”
His tiny arms reach out for you in the manger. His strong wounded hands reach out for you on the cross.
When we know this, of course we point to him. We point to Jesus. But Jesus is God with us, pointing back.  When we know this we receive his peace. And we become his peacemakers. And we work to share his peace with the whole world.

This is the first lesson of Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. Since all people around the world can look at the moon, this is a good way to think of the love of God!
    Happy Christmas to you!