Christmas 1 2017
St. Brendan’s Anglican Church
I had a very strange experience the other night. Some of you may know that I’m in the process of looking towards buying a house in the next few months. It’s a big step, but it’s one that I’ve been looking forward to. But I digress.
I’m a few months away, but I like to flip through Trulia and Zillow and try to see what sort of house I might like looking at when the time comes. So there I was, flipping through when…
My parent’s old house popped up. The one I spent the first decade of my life in. A very odd feeling, because a flood of memories and things I hadn’t thought about in years. The juniper bushes surrounding the front porch. The fireplace I one banged my noggin on. The basement I used to watch Disney Channel and Discovery and pretended to be astronaut by climbing into the tumble dryer and where I set up my Brio wooden train set.
I may have sped past a detail, but yes, I used to play in the tumble dryer.
There were pictures of my old bedroom, new carpet, different paint (mine was Big Bird Yellow). The garage that we were never quite able to fit a car in.
But what was striking to me was its emptiness. Either it’s been foreclosed or the owners have moved to a new house in the chain, but it sits empty.
And there is nothing as melancholy, I think, than an empty house. No furniture. No movement. No life. It’s eerie. George Carlin once wrote:
That’s all your house is- a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you’re saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.
George is commenting on commercialism, I think… But still, a house without stuff in it… Well, it’s lonely. It’s not doing it’s job. There’s no stuff there.
And of course, it’s equally a problem when there’s TOO MUCH stuff in a house. It’s total trash TV, of course, but I love to watch Hoarders. Maybe you’ve seen it. And if you have enough sense, you’ve seen part of it and turned it over to something else. Which is what I tell people I do, but my Church family should know that I hoard Hoarders episodes.
My favorite is an episode involving Gary. You get the establishing shot of the outside of the house, not knowing what lurks inside. Then a shot of Gary in this vast computer chair, enthroned in glory, as Gary looks into the camera and says, “I’m Gary, and… I got too many bunnies.” And never in the history of television has there been an understatement of this magnitude. Slam shot to the interior of the house. There are hundreds of rabbits running around this house. They have eaten the dry wall, four feet up the walls. Everywhere there is rabbit and rabbit stuff. Except in this little office room, where Gary sleeps in a twin bed, and his wife in a recliner. And the landlords know nothing about it.
In one of the worst of these hoarding houses, there is so much stuff that it actually breaks all but one the house’s floor joists, threatening to collapse the whole house. The city condemns the house.
An empty house. A too-full house of nonsense. If ever there was a metaphor for the human condition prior to the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas, this might be it.
Overfull with… stuff… we thought would make us happy, but ends up making us lifeless, trapped.
In the beginning was the Word… I love John’s Gospel. The last of the canonical Gospels written, it has the full witness of the Church’s understanding of who Jesus is, and communicates that truth in a context that is mystical, almost esoteric, and particularly in this passage. John proclaims Jesus to be the pre-existent Logos, the Word of God become flesh amongst us.
But what does that mean? What does John mean by logos? What does it mean to be the “Logos of God?” And what does it mean for that logos to be incarnate on the earth?
I’ll admit that my Plato is very weak, and it has taken me a long time to fully comprehend this concept, and I’ll be the first to say that my grasp on this is very very weak. But like the turning of a kaleidoscope or the focusing of a camera the idea of Jesus as the “Word of God” finally clicked into place for me when I encountered the Sanskrit word Shabd. It literally means “spoken performance,” but it has the connotation of that vibration of your chest a split second before you speak. Or the sound of your voice in your own ears. Spiritually, it’s a metaphor for the essence of God, the thing that makes God, God, that providentially and immanently supports our creation. Both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis use this sound metaphor in their work: Lewis as Aslan sings the world into creation and teaches the animals speech… Tolkien’s world is also musically created, and it’s Tolkien’s Satan figure, Morgoth, who disrupts creation through his “loud, vain” music that disrupts the harmony of the creative sound.
The metaphor of music is an interesting one; music has a rationality, a reasonableness that makes sense; if all things are created through this rationality, this reasonableness, then it follows that all creation carries with it that same rationality… And that all creation can be rationally understood, it can be taken apart, understood, and put back together… If this sounds an awful like modern science, you’d be right. Our science makes sense only if the universe makes rational sense, that when I drop a pencil, I can adequately make predictions about the world I see around me and understand the world around.
John continues, saying that in the person Jesus Christ that this Word, this creative, rational and understandable music of God, the Shabda of God becomes flesh in the world out of love for God’s creation. A fifth century theologian, writing as Dionysus the Areopagite, writes that God’s love is so expansive, so effusive, that even if it was not necessary for God to become man, then God’s love would’ve done so anyway, coming into our natural world as fully God and fully man.
What John does next is make an astounding claim; a claim that does not exist in any other religion or philosophy. John does not simply identify Jesus as being “one” with the Logos, or having found a way to become one with the Logos, the Shabda, the spoken voice of God… But that Jesus Christ, the human being, IS the Logos, IS the Shabda, IS the spoken voice of God… An astounding claim that pulls together all sorts of religious claims through out history… Jesus Christ IS the Naad of the Vedas, the Tao of Lao Zi, the Music of the Spheres of Pythagoras, the Kalma of the Quran, the Naam of Sanith Saab… John is declaring, in his somewhat mystical, mildly esoteric way, that Jesus Christ is Lord over all things, sharing in God’s divine essence.
I AM: this is where God reveals God’s self and understandable, relatable, communicable. The full revelation of God is not one of the total alien bizarrely unknowable, the Lovecraftian deity that causes insanity or horror in the beholder of God. Nor is the revelation of God the trickster, a God that tempts people. Instead, God is to be known as a loving savior, a carpenter, a healer, a teacher, and a Lord over all things: death, hell, love, sickness, celebration.
And in doing so, the Logos of God comes into our empty home and finally makes it ours. We no longer sit in the two extremes of an empty shell of a home, lonely and sterile. Nor do we sit confined in our little office, living in nonsense of our own creation, bogged down by the hoarding of stuff, bunnies and all. The Word of God comes to us and dwells among us, puts his feet up on the coffee table, loves us, and forms community with us.
It’s that community, that communion with Jesus that makes us heirs of God. It is his moving in to our homes, our hearts, that changes our homes from desolate and deserted, to Beulah and Hephizah, words referring to a pure, newly married bride, gaining a crown and scepter. Where we slaves to the emptiness, the hoarding, the sin of our lives, now we are heirs and full owners and claimants to God’s kingdom.
We don’t have a Christmas miracle as a savior, some sort of guru that has achieved greatness or oneness with the Divine Logos. We have a Christ, a messiah THAT IS the Divine Logos. That makes creation knowable, that makes ourselves knowable, and makes God knowable. And in knowing Him, we fill our homes with all things that eternal: love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Goodness. Self-Control. Communion. A new life.