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The Paradox of Christmas (sermon full text)

The full text of a short meditation on the Paradox of Christmas.

The Paradox of Christmas
Morning Worship Meditation
Rev. Kathy Smith
Calvin Theological Seminary
Worship Service Outline

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Now, that’s a pretty tall order, Lord! You can’t be serious.
Who do you think we are?
We’re just people—regular people.
We have to have the same attitude as you?
We’re doing our best just to figure you out!
And that’s not easy.

Especially in the Christmas season
when we read
about your “conception by the Holy Spirit, “
and about you being “the Son of God.”
We have questions, Lord.

Like, “who in the world are you?”
and “what in the world have you done?”
It’s all pretty confusing to us, Lord. It’s all so paradoxical.

You are God—infinite, immortal, invisible, way beyond all of us
—and yet you were human—limited, mortal, touch-able, one of us.
You are the Good Shepherd—the one who will take care of us, keep watch over us
—and yet you also are the lamb that was slain,
the sheep who before the shearers was dumb.

You are the peacemaker, the one who brings wars to cease
—and yet you also are the swordbringer,
whose double-edged word cuts the way of salvation.

You are the prince of glory, the ruler of the kingdom of heaven
—and yet you also are the slave, the servant,
the one who emptied himself in order to be filled with our sorrows.

We see you, Lord, lying sweetly in a wooden manger,
yet we know you will all too soon hang on a wooden cross.
We see you transfigured in shining raiment on the mountain, talking with Moses and Elijah,
yet we know you will all too soon be stripped naked by gambling soldiers.

You are Christ, our Savior, the everlasting Lord.
Yet you are Jesus, the Nazarene, born on earth in a particular instant.
Do we know who you are, Lord?
Can we understand the paradox of your identity?
Perhaps if we look at what you have done.
Maybe then we’ll understand it.
Maybe then.

But… there we find more mysteries, more puzzles, more paradox.
You came to bring “peace on earth.”
But you received violence, bloodshed, nails and a spear.
You gained for us a victory over sin and Satan, but how?
Through the most magnificent defeat we’ve ever seen.
You brought us life;
but it came through your own death.
It’s so hard for us to make sense of this
—and that’s just making sense in our head!

That often has little to do with our heart,
our attitude, our will, our actual behavior.
How often have we not said, “Come into my heart”
and then closed the door and pulled the rug out from under you?
How often have we not sung, “I love you, Lord” on Sunday,
and tarnished your name on Monday?

We crave you, we need you, we want you.
Yet we also scorn you.
We bite the hand that feeds us.
We are paradoxical too.
And when we realize it,
when we see how we have rejected you, denied you … we weep.
But … through our tears we begin to see more clearly,
as if they washed the scales from our eyes,
wiped away the miracle mud.

We begin to see a new paradox—
that although we are obstinate,
you still love us!

That even as we pull away,
you hang onto our collars and pull us back.
We begin to realize, Lord,
that what looked to us like tragedy
is really comedy and brings us to a happy ending.
In fact, in the gospel story we get to live happily ever after!
If we follow you and die to ourselves,
we will have life—everlasting life.

We will join you in the everlasting instant of glory!
Now, we begin to understand this mystery.
We see how “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,
the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly and despised things of this world
and the things that are not—
to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him.
It is because of him that we are in you, Christ Jesus,
you who have become for us wisdom from God—
that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:27-28)

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Now, we begin to understand.
You sank deep into death so that we might be raised to life.
You made yourself nothing so that we could be something!
You became a servant, a slave, a mortal human being.
And you saw that mortality through to the end.

You died on the cross,
and you bid us also come and die.
Now we see why God exalted you,
why you have the name that is above every name.

Yes, the cost was great,
but the gift is so much greater!
Our tongues confess you as Lord;
We all cry:

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength,
and honor, and glory, and blessing.”

Worthy are you, O Lord, Savior of the world!
Worthy are you, our cosmic Christ!
You are the infant lowly and the everlasting Lord.
You are the Good Shepherd and the Lamb that was slain.
You are the peacemaker and the swordbringer, the prince and the slave.
You sit in power at God’s right hand
and you walk along beside us.

You lead us in the narrow way,
with a love that is deep and wide.

You are here and you are coming.
Alleluia! Come, Lord Jesus!