Sermon: Advent 4

Baby hand

Great theologians have written great things about the divine and human nature of Christ: “The communicatio idiomatum is based on the oneness of person subsisting in the two natures of Jesus Christ. Hence it can be used as long as both the subject and the predicate of a sentence stand for the person of Jesus Christ, or present a common subject of predication. For in this case we simply affirm that He Who subsists in the Divine nature…” Oy!

Again, great theologians have written great things about the divine and human nature of Christ, but who can understand them? For centuries the human and divine nature of Christ was discussed. The basics of the agreement were settled in the 300s, but even today we struggle to understand how Jesus could have been fully God and fully human. Put another way, we struggle to understand the Incarnation. How is it that Jesus is, as Athanasius stated, “God and Man… God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of his mother, born in the world.”

Instead of trying to explain in theological terms how this all is – because quite frankly I don’t pretend to even understand it all – Let me share with you a brief story where I finally understood at least a bit. One day when Johnny was quite young, he was looking up at the moon. Finally he asked his dad, “Dad, is God in the moon?” His dad explained that God is everywhere. Johnny thought on that a while before his next question, “Is God in my tummy?” “Well, sort of,” his dad said, not sure where these questions were leading, but went on doing his best to explain how Jesus was “in” us all and so could in fact be “in” his tummy. It was then that Little Johnny declared, “Jesus wants a banana.”

“Jesus wants a banana.” For my simple mind, that statement is as profound as any Athanasius ever spoke. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” All things were made through Christ, yet in his human form, Jesus still has an urge for a banana or maybe it’s his mama’s matzah balls. The point is, Jesus is the creator of the heavens and the earth and at the same time, he is one of us – human. Like you. Like me.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “In the birth of Jesus Christ, God took on the form of all humanity, not just that of a single human being.” God took on the form of all humanity, but for us, even though the question of the two natures of Christ is of profound significance, the more pressing question is “Why?” And that “Why?” is the point behind it all. The reason behind the Incarnation.

Surprisingly enough, the answer to that “why?” is a lot simpler than you would think. Bonhoeffer answered it for us when he wrote, “God becomes human out of love for humanity.” He goes on to say, “In becoming human, God is revealed as the one who seeks to be there, not for God’s own sake, but ‘for us.’” Out of love for us, God became man. Which says, out of love for us, God took on human nature so that he might suffer and to die on the Cross, in order to pay the debt for our sinful nature.

Now I know that it is four days until Christmas and you are probably wondering why I’m talking about the Cross, but you must know that the two are inseparable. We cannot have one without the other. As Bonhoeffer says, “For those who are great and powerful in this world, there are two places where their courage fails them, which terrify them to the very depths of their souls, and which they dearly avoid. These are the manger and the Cross of Jesus Christ.”

We step into the manger and we see the baby cradled in the Blessed Virgin’s arms, but we deceive ourselves. We say, “Isn’t he cute, adorable.” We make little gooshy faces and talk in a funny voice. We do all these things, but instead we should be struck with such an awe inspiring fear that we literally fall to our knees and cover our faces, because THIS IS GOD. Bonhoeffer wrote “‘Mighty God’ is the name of this child. The child in the manger is none other than God. Nothing greater can be said. God became a child” and even though he is only an infant, he literally loves us to death. His love is a devouring fire, consuming everything. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews, “since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” I must say, if you have a fear of relationships you are in some deep doo at this point. There can be no wimpy Christians, because only one who possesses great courage or one who is an absolute fool would step into that manger and kneel before that child. And I’ll tell you another thing, it takes the same amount of courage to look into a mirror and to see what this child sees, because what your eyes will behold is the very image of God. And if your courage does not fail, you will also see a son or daughter of God – You.

Jean Eudes wrote, “Jesus belongs to you, but more than that, he longs to be in you, living and ruling in you as the head lives and rules the body. He wants his breath to be in your breath, his heart in your heart, and his soul in your soul, so that you may indeed ‘glorify God and bear him in your body, that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in you.’”

Jesus wants a banana. Fully God. Fully human. Why? So that the breath of God, the heart of God, and the soul of God could be with us and in us. So that we might be restored to Him.

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