Some Celestial Event – The Rev. Michelle Meech
December 27, 2020
A sermon preached to the online community of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kingston, NY on the First Sunday of Christmas, December 27, 2020. Read the scripture here. Click the play button above to listen along.
In the beginning was the Word. The Gospel of John echoes the book of Genesis, of course. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light.”
In the beginning was the Word. This word, this wind, this breath from God. In the beginning the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through this Word and without it, not one thing came into being. What has come into being in this Word was life. And the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
It was some celestial event – this Word from God, this birth of Christ. A celestial event, the poetry of God, spoken into the void, that brought us all into being. Molecules crashed into each other through forces of gravity to become gaseous elements, and the combining and mixing of these elements as they became heavier and developed mass causing them to be thrown together by gravitational pulls resulting in the birth of stars.
This spoken word from God. A wind. A breath. A line of poetry – Let there be light.
And it is Christ that compels us to reckon with the question: What is all this about? This existence, this life, this breath. This seemingly random happening in which molecules form elements which come together to become masses which create gravitational pulls that burst into stars from which are born planets that have become home to our precious flesh. What is all this about?
From the beginning, this Christ has always been present – the answer to the question, what is all this about?
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, tells us. He explains, “the law was our disciplinarian… but now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.” In one sense, having been a well-schooled Jewish man, Paul was referring to the law of the Jewish people, the core of which is the 10 commandments.
So that we are able to continue to allow life to flourish, we need a law that helps us remember. Because it’s so easy to forget. It’s so easy to get lost in our own needs based on our own hurts and make the world smaller and smaller and smaller until we are the only one in it. And we commit sin because we feel so disconnected from the incredible celestial event that brought breath to our lungs and life to our bodies. Some celestial event that birthed love in our hearts.
Discipline, the law, helps us in times when we’re not fully connected to the truth of this Word. It helps us to care for one another and enable all life to flourish. But the law is not the same as faith, not the same as a direct knowing. This isn’t to say that Christianity is an improvement on Judaism. In truth, they are two branches of the same ancient tree of wisdom. Both faith traditions have different ways of articulating the same deeper truth, that God is Love.
So, what Paul is talking about in his letter to the Galatians, is a faith that comes to us from knowing this deeper truth, a bigger love than our small, lost world where all we think about is what we don’t have. This faith is an awareness that reconnects us with that celestial event that brought all things into being – sun, moon, and stars; earth, winds, and waters; and every living thing.
And that we are a part of all of it. Not just a stray anomaly, adrift on our own. But a precious, essential piece of that celestial event. And even when that’s not the message we received when we were young, even when we were taught that we aren’t precious, our faith can lead us to this awareness. As our faith matures, we are not beholden to discipline because we have come to know God’s law as it is written on our hearts. Our hearts, the manger in which Christ is born in some celestial event.
And the only response to that awareness, the only response to that kind of love that is showered down upon us, is Love. To love God. To love our neighbor as ourselves.
This celestial event, the reason this all came to be and the meaning of all of it, is love. But not a personal salvation kind of love that is about what I believe – for that is no salvation at all but a way of dismissing the command of love. Rather a love that is incarnate and real, tangible and takes action in the world. For, as the Jewish Talmud tells us: “Do not be daunted by the world’s grief. Do justly now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
This love, this Christ, who is love incarnate, has been a part of this celestial event from the beginning. The Alpha and the Omega. The thriving of life is the love of Christ, the self-emptying love of Christ. A love that does not require response in return. But a love that gives of itself because it sees that a decision made over here, enables life to thrive over there. That all my decisions are not about me alone, but have an impact on the lives around me and on the lives of those I’ve never even met before.
Life cannot thrive without love. Love is all that matters.
And so what we see here in this world, what we experience here – the absurdity of it, the loveliness of it, the pain of it… all of it – what faith helps us learn to look for, are the moments when we are called to be of service to Love. In Love. Because each time we are, each time we come out of ourselves and our own little worlds and we learn to follow God’s law written on our hearts, we are living into our purpose and participating in some celestial event. This is the poetry of God. And we are a precious, integral part of it.
None of the rest of it really matters. Not really.
The world truly comes into being through this Love that is Christ because, through this love, life comes to its true purpose.
What we celebrate at Christmas is this birth. The birth of love inside of us, the Word that was in the beginning. A light that shines in the darkness. And the darkness does not overcome it. Because it is some celestial event. We are some celestial event.
In the beginning was the Word, this breath that is God, this love that is life.
Come let us adore this.