Watch the entire service here including our flash pageant!
Read Luke 2:1-20 here.
When we tell the story we just enacted, we are talking about incarnation.
A big word and a big concept. What does it mean?
In-carnation doesn’t mean these flowers.
Let’s say you go to Disneyland and you want some ice cream, and you decide to get that ice cream at the ice cream shop on Main Street. And say while you’re there, your friends text you asking, “Where you at?” You would reply, “In Carnation” because you’re eating ice cream at the Carnation Café which is sponsored by the Carnation Company.
The last time I was at Disneyland this was still the Carnation Café Ice Cream Parlor, set up like an old-fashioned soda counter. Nowadays it has become more than just ice cream; now it is a restaurant that also serves “comfort” food, and one of their most popular items is their fried pickles with parmesan dipping sauce. But I digress.
Incarnation. What does it mean?
Not” in the flowers,” not “in the ice cream parlor.” It means “in the flesh.”
John 1:14 explains incarnation. It says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
We profess our belief in the incarnation when we say in the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary…”
What we have just acted out in our flash pageant, the story we have just told, is the story of the incarnation. God in the flesh. This might seem like just a nice story that we tell this time of year. It might seem far away and long ago. But it’s so much more. It’s the central act in the greatest story ever told, the story of God’s incredible love for us.
The love story doesn’t begin with Jesus being born. God’s love story begins in Genesis, where we read that God created Adam. Adam’s name means “human.” We see throughout the pages of the Bible that humans have had some success and lots of failure in accepting God’s love and in loving God back, and in loving one another, but we also see that despite that, God keeps on showing up.
There’s an ongoing pattern in the Bible of the people turning away from God, getting into trouble, calling out to God for help, and God rescuing them, because God’s love is greater than all the bad things we do, and God’s love is not based on our ability to do good, thankfully. (Thanks be to God!)
God shows up in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, most unexpectedly as baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, demonstrating the great lengths to which God will go to reach out to us.
And this incarnation, this great sign of God’s love, is for all people. (Thanks be to God!)
The angel says to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all people…” -Luke 2:11
And then the multitude of the heavenly host shows up, and that angel choir sings, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” -Luke 2:14 NRSV
Hold up. Is this for everyone or just for certain people? Because certainly I am someone God favors, but you, well, you got some work to do.
No, just kidding. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But God loves us so much that he became love incarnate, Jesus, whose name means “one who saves” and who is called Emmanuel which means “God with us,” and who died on a cross so that sin and death would no longer have power over us.
Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all.”
Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
That “peace among those whom God favors” is ours for the asking. And when we invite God to be in our lives, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we become a part of the incarnation, the en-flesh-ment of God, as we are the body of Christ.
In those days when a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, love came down to be born in Bethlehem.
In these days when we let Christ’s love rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15), we are the incarnation of God’s love for the world.
Beloved, let us love one another. God’s love story is still being written through each one of us.