God is still creating us in God’s own image, through coming among us in the flesh, as God’s Son: and we will be God’s face in the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Nativity of Our Lord
Text: John 1:1-14 (plus 18) (also with references to Genesis 1:26)
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
In the beginning, God said: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”
In the beginning God spoke into chaos, God’s Word called light into being, God’s Spirit breathed into a new creation. And into that new creation, inexplicably, God spoke a new reality: a species created in the very image of God, according to God’s likeness.
This morning John declares that that Word of God at the beginning is also the One we know as Jesus, a human like us. All things were created by this Word who spoke over the waters, through the Spirit’s breath, and in the heart of God the Creator.
But this is still the deep mystery: somehow, inexplicably, we are created in the image of this God, we are made in God’s likeness.
An objective witness would say that either can’t be true, or God must be horrible, if humanity bears God’s image.
Humanity has done more damage to God’s good creation than any other creature God made. We alone have tried to be gods ourselves, we alone have made war and instruments of war on a massive scale.
Only our violence threatens not only our own species but the diverse and beautiful breadth of the creation itself. As far as we can tell, no other creature of God hates.
We took the command to have dominion of the creation, given to us as the image of God, as permission to plunder the abundance of the creation for our own use, disregarding damage to others of God’s creation and to creation itself, let alone our own species.
Many today say if humanity is created in the image of God that’s as good a reason as any to reject God. If God is like humanity – prone to evil, to capriciousness, power-mad, leaning toward depravity – that’s not a God worthy of praise or adoration. And if God is not like us, then how are we made in God’s image?
But here’s another deep mystery: God keeps calling the creation good.
In Genesis 1, that’s the repeated refrain: this is good. Light is good, water is good, creatures are good. People are good. Now John says, God still declares this creation, even humanity, good. God deigns to take on human flesh and become one of us. God said we are good, and God still means it. God thinks we are worthy of bearing God’s life, not just God’s likeness.
The usual narrative around Christmas is that the world’s a mess, and God came to save it. There is truth behind that.
But the deeper truth is that God has always been working in the Spirit to continue to make this creation into the good that God has always seen in it from the beginning.
The deeper truth is that God has come in the flesh to live with us so that we might, from inside out, grow ever more fully into the image of the Triune God who loves the whole creation beyond any reason or sense.
This is the only way that salvation is truly salvation, a healing of humanity and of all things.
There’s no way to avoid the truth that humanity is a huge mess, and has made a greater mess of the creation. God may see good in us, but objectively we are a long way from God’s image.
We see this clearly when Jesus comes to us: “The Word was in the world,” John says, “and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” That’s how far humanity drifted from God’s own image, we were unable to recognize God with us. The One who was also God looked and acted so differently we didn’t know him.
But this is Christmas: the Creator enters the creation to perfect this, to complete this image from within.
We’ve seen the very heart of God in Jesus, the image of God, the truth of God: God is abiding love, gracious relationship, transformative mercy, healing grace. Jesus comes to complete this image in us.
Filled with God’s undying love that abides in our hearts, we become such love in our lives and the world sees God’s truth. Joined into the life of God in loving relationship, we open our arms to draw more of the creation into the same abundant life. Overwhelmed by God’s mercy in the face of our sinfulness, we are transformed into people of mercy, and we show the world the heart of God. The grace that Jesus reveals in facing the cross, dying, and rising from the dead for a world that rejected him, heals us, and all who find such grace. And we become signs of God’s grace in the world.
John’s Gospel reveals Jesus as the face of the Triune God for us.
But Jesus, God-with-us, from the very heart of God, is shaping you into the image of God, so now you become God’s face in the world. God’s voice. God’s hands. God’s heart. Most of all, God’s heart.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. Now this Word means to make you into that same glory.
Deep mystery, indeed. But hope for the healing of all things.
In the name of Jesus. Amen