In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We see in the birth of Jesus Christ not only the redemption of creation but also an affirmation of creation’s goodness. Though some of what was good was lost when Adam took that lustful bite and plunged the world back to chaos, it was not all lost. Apples bruise and get eaten by worms or disease, but so also do they still taste sweet and still provide vitamins and sustenance and even blossoms in the Spring. All of creation, even apples, groan under the strain that we have put upon them by our sins. They long for the revelation of the sons of God. But still there is goodness in creation: kittens and sugarplums, i-pods and cranberries. Creation was and is still the object of God’s love, created by His Word. And that is good.
God loves His creation and He made an immediate promise upon the Fall: Satan would not win. He could not have them. He could not have the apples, or any of the stuff, and he could not have Adam, Eve, or their offspring. Save one, but we’ll get to that in a bit. What God has made belongs to Him. Satan tried to steal it but cannot have it. The Lord takes it back. But He is just. He will not steal it. He will pay a fair price, even if it was ill-gotten gain for Hell. And there is Offspring of Eve, an impossibly uncreated Seed, a Man born without the will of man and without Adam’s sin, who is handed over. He is the ransom and the scapegoat. He is the victim and the priest. He is the Son of Mary and God Almighty. He will give up His life. But in the act He will crush the serpent’s head, who simply bites off more than he can chew.
Adam and Eve had wanted, in their greed, to become like God so God became like them, was incarnate, was made Man: the Word became Flesh. Thus did the Lord make them, and us, more fully human, and also to make them, and us, more fully His sons and His daughters. So also did He promote them, and us, beyond Eden to heaven itself. For He will make new heavens and a new earth.
Now, some might ask, “If God is so in love with the earth and promises at the Savior’s birth ‘peace on earth’ where is it? Where is the peace?” It is there in the manger: God in the Flesh, the Prince of Peace subject to Satan’s tyranny. For God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the perfect Lover. He does not force Himself upon the earth. He will take back all the apples and gerbils, sharks and trees, but He will not take back by force any person who does not want Him. He loves you so you are free. If you do not want Him, if you want to go where there is perfect equality, no hierarchy, no dependence on another, no sacrifice; if you want to be where things are fair and to be alone, you may go and join the devil in his domain. The Lord is a Lover not a rapist. He has made you and He has bought you, but you are not a slave. You are a bride. His purchase was not your price but your ransom. He would have you love Him and rejoice in Him so He leaves you free.
It is that freedom that allows humanity to engage in all sorts of evil. Nations wage war, men commit adultery and fornicate, liars tell lies, and the economy crumbles because God loves the world and will not force Himself upon you. He does not win the world by violence. He loves it and redeems it by suffering violence. He does not force you away from your stuff or your sins, even from the devil. Instead He joins you in your sorrow. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He comes not simply to show you a better way, like unto Ghandi or Mother Teresa, though He certainly does show you a better way, a fuller and more satisfying life, wisdom, but more than that, He comes to actually to bear your burden, to suffer the consequences of your sins, and to defeat death on your behalf. He wins you back by sacrifice and you are free. He is wooing you. He is loving you.
That is the peace He brings, the peace by which He rules. It is peace between Himself and we rebels. It is the end of war with heaven. Some might think it is not quite good enough or what it could be. They want peace here and how. They want the Lord to end all sorrow instantaneously or at least end it for those who love Him, like unto the perverted fantasies of Timothy LaHaye where the believers get to check out of creation for being good. But Our Lord does not do that. Because the Lord does not love you alone. He loves all the world. To love Him is to also love them, to love apples and snowbanks and mountains and eagles; Afghans, Iraqis, Germans and Poles; good and bad, greatest and least. He didn’t give up on you. He is not giving up on them. He did not force you. He will not force them. And He gives you a part in this love, in His Kingdom, by giving you duties and services to perform for those whom He loves, and even giving you crosses to bear.
His love is not shallow. So He does not keep you from sorrow. For of sorrow is born compassion. Freedom always suffers abuse. If the Lord put an end to all hunger, he would also deny you the joy of feeding those you love and those in need. Without hunger there would be no feasting.
The Lord leaves you free and suffers the consequences and inevitable abuses. He leaves you free because He loves you. He waits and He loves. You are worth it to Him. You are worth the risk, the pain, the disappointment, and the sorrow. For like a woman just delivered, He forgets the agony for the joy set before Him. He delights in you. Listen and you’ll hear Him say in the delivery room, “Open your eyes so that I can see you.” Well, maybe not., that is actually what our mothers say, even though they can see all of us but our eyeballs. Why do mothers want so badly to look into their newborn’s eyes?1 Because they want to know their children. It is not a stretch to imagine St. Mary holding Our Lord in her arms and saying, “Open your eyes so that I can see you.” And that is very much the sentiment of Our Lord who says to us: “Ask and it shall be given unto you.” It is like a mother looking into her child’s eyes. He wants to know you. That is why He loves your prayers. Because you are free and unique, your prayers are different from everyone else’s, your story different and wonderful and you delight Him. He wants to look into your eyes, to know you.
Still there is more. The Lord loves creation. He has redeemed it that you, like Him, would have someone to love. It is not just that you receive love. He has also redeemed you as a lover. You love people and stuff around you. St. Francis was on to something with his talk of “brother bird.” The Lord redeemed creation even as He created it. He has made it lovable. But even more so, the Lord redeemed humanity, the Word became Flesh, so that you might look across the aisle or across the ocean and see not enemies or foreigners, but brothers and sisters. He places the solitary into families. He took up flesh to love you and that you would love one another. That love is not shallow or cheap. Children always break your heart. But if they didn’t, what good would they be?
He is still Emmanuel, still God with us. He is still a Man. And He still loves creation and loves you. But He is no longer in the manger. He has grown and died, risen and ascended. Yet He is not gone. He is here on the earth, in creation, in bread and wine, in water and Word, in brother and in sister, shining in the darkness, not just to redeem them, but also to affirm them. For He has made and declared them good. This is the peace that passes all understanding.
He has come unto His own. He has come to you. By grace you receive Him. You are His child. God be praised: evermore and evermore.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
1 I got this image and idea from Fredica Matthew Greene’s essay: Loving a Child with Autism.
Pastor David Petersen