When we open the door of our heart to God, we make an opening in the world for God’s light; we also are changed forever.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas Day)
Texts: John 1:1-14 (adding 15-18), with reference to Luke 9:58
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“Mary’s consent opens the door of created nature, of time, of history, to the Word of God,” Thomas Merton writes. 
God’s Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth, because Mary opened the door. The light shines in the darkness and cannot be overcome, because Mary said “yes.” Her son Jesus, the Word of God from before time itself, “was in the world” because of Mary.
But ponder this troubling thought: Mary opens the door. And we slam it shut.
Merton’s poem continues: “Mary sends the infinitely Rich and Powerful One forth as poor and helpless . . . A vagrant, a destitute wanderer with dusty feet, finds his way down a new road. A homeless God, lost in the night, without papers, without identification, without even a number, a frail expendable exile.” 
John says, “The world came into being through this Word, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own did not accept him.” Jesus said: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)
God-with-us, Emmanuel, for whose coming just yesterday morning we sang our longing, does come to ransom captive Israel. Does come to join life with all peoples and tribes. Does come to restore the whole creation by entering into it in person. Does come to reveal God’s eternal love for the creation and for all creatures in it.
But this timeless Word of God arrives and walks down a dusty road homeless, without identification or papers, “a frail expendable exile.” And this homeless God is sent to a cross.
For two thousand years, people have claimed to receive God’s Word-made-flesh. But for two thousand years the Church has also done many horrible things, caused pain and suffering. For two thousand years, people have claimed to follow this Christ, but have done wickedness and evil in that name.
For two thousand years, people have claimed to accept God-with-us, but have lived lives of selfishness and neglect, have oppressed and harmed others, have tried to hold salvation as our possession, not live into it as a new way of life. For two thousand years, Christ’s followers have not followed Christ. We recognize this in ourselves, too.
The Word came to what was his own, and his own did not accept him.
This is the paradox of the Incarnation and of this day: we want God with us. But we’re not prepared to accept God with us.
John declares that in Jesus of Nazareth we see the face of God, the Son who reveals God’s heart to us. God’s Word, God’s Logos, God’s Blueprint for the whole universe, present at the creation itself, the Son of God, one with the Spirit and the Father, this “infinitely Rich and Powerful One,” now enters our life as a poor and helpless baby of a poor and willing young mother.
When we see who this baby becomes, hear him proclaim God’s love and God’s reign, hear him invite us to follow his path, when we see him die and then rise from the dead, we know John speaks truth. Jesus is God-with-us, the face of the Triune God for us, a face that radiates undying love. In Jesus we see the heart of God we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see.
But accepting God’s Word, receiving Jesus as God-with-us, means being changed. And that’s where we hesitate.
Too often we act as if faith is just thinking and believing the right things.
We tend to keep faith in our heads, a matter of right teachings, because that keeps God at arm’s length. Talking about God, talking about doctrine, talking about faith, as if they’re objects for our consideration. Then we don’t have to be changed.
“Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of God has no place to lay his head.” When faith doesn’t reach the heart, when we shut that door to God’s making a home in us, that’s when believers do horrible things. That’s when we kill, and when we persecute those who disagree. That’s when we ignore the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying. That’s when we don’t live lives shaped by God’s love. That’s when we become a force of darkness instead of light. And God remains homeless.
“Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of God has no place to lay his head.” When we want God-with-us only on our terms, standing in the background like a good butler until we need something, and then send God back into the shadows, God remains homeless.
We keep God at arm’s length because John this morning promises a great but terrifying wonder: “To all who received this Word, who believed in his name, the Word gave power to become children of God, who were born not of human things, not of flesh, but of God.”
That’s why we intellectualize our faith, keep God on the sidelines of our lives. Because the alternative is standing in front of Gabriel like Mary, in that heartbeat where we have to decide: do I let God into my life and be changed forever? The alternative is God growing inside us, like Mary. The alternative is God taking the Blueprint of the universe enfleshed in Jesus and re-writing us to that Blueprint, making us children of God who look like God.
All who receive Christ are given power to become new beings. Children of God.
Mary’s whole life is transformed. She becomes the one who embraces, loves, shapes, and nurtures God in the world. Family, disciples, friends, many who meet Jesus also receive him into their lives. It takes time for some of them, but they are transformed, too.
And as much as we can see when Christians have not received Christ and have done evil, as much as we see where we have failed, John’s truth is also visible throughout these two thousand years: year after year, century after century, people’s receiving Christ into their lives transformed them into Christ in the world, children of God who, knowing the heart of God in Jesus, became that heart in the world.
For century after century, year after year, people’s consent opened the door of created nature, of time, of history, to the Word of God, to God’s Blueprint, and they were changed into Christ in the world, children of God who, seeing the face of God in Jesus, became that face in the world.
Now we hear Gabriel’s invitation ourselves.
To accept this Word among us, to receive this God-with-us as our own. We need to be as aware as Mary was of what this will mean for us. We will be changed. We will let go of lots of things we cling to. We will start on a new path, where we are God’s children, made in God’s image, where our lives no longer are our own.
But when we do, when we’re made into the pattern of God’s divine Blueprint, what happened with Mary will also happen with us. Others will meet God through us. Others will find hope through us. Others will see God’s glory, full of grace and truth, through us. Others will know the heart of God’s love, through us.
Mary’s consent opens the door to the Word of God. Our consent keeps it open, so that God’s Word can keep creating life and justice and light in this world that so desperately needs it.
In the name of Jesus. Amen
 Thomas Merton, “Hagia Sophia: IV. Sunset. The Hour of Compline. Salve Regina”, from In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, (New Directions Publishing Corp, New York, 2005), p. 71
 Merton, ibid