Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas koan

Colossians 3: 12-17; Luke 2: 1-20
******** United Church of Christ
December 24, 2009 – Christmas Eve

Earlier this week I had a mystical experience, one for which I am still finding the words. The only words I have for it sound like a koan or a riddle: the incarnation is the resurrection, and the resurrection is the incarnation. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

I was watching a German movie entitled Cherry Blossoms. The story is about an affectionate, long-married couple whose children have grown up and moved away. When the wife learns that her husband is terminally ill, she keeps it from him, and urges him to see more of life and visit their eldest son who lives in Japan. She has always wanted to travel to Japan, to see Mt. Fuji and the cherry blossoms, to study Japanese butoh dancing, but her husband is not adventurous, preferring a life of routine and predictability. When the wife dies suddenly, the husband takes it upon himself to live out his wife’s dreams. He travels to Tokyo, in the midst of the cherry blossom season, a celebration of beauty, impermanence and new beginnings. He brings with him her favorite sweater, dress, necklace, and her silk kimono, wearing the dress and sweater over his own clothes under his coat, taking his wife with him to see the cherry blossoms, to Mt. Fuji and to the performances of a street butoh dancer.

Early one morning, when Mt. Fuji finally emerges from its cloud cover, the husband dons his wife’s kimono, puts on the white face makeup of his dancer friend, and dances a beautiful butoh dance, his wife now dancing with him. At the edge of a lake at the foot of Mt. Fuji, he peacefully collapses and dies. His dancer friend then puts on his coat and hat as she mourns the loss of him.

By putting on the one who has passed, the beloved not only lives again, but makes alive the one who mourns in lonely exile.

I know this sounds tremendously deep, like that snow out there on the front lawn in the dark night. But when we sing the words “Be born in us today”, “Born to give us second birth”, do we really ponder what they mean?

The creative force to write the gospel stories and the two birth parables in Matthew and Luke came from the resurrection, that powerful mystery that galvanized a motley group of disciples into a community of faith. From rebirth came the passion to write about the birth and the life of the One who changes lives. From Jesus’ birth comes rebirth, not only to humankind but to all creation.

The incarnation is the resurrection. The resurrection is the incarnation.

When we put on Christ, as Paul puts it, when we put Christ’s clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, patience, and love we incarnate Christ within us, Christ is born in us, and Christ is not only alive once more, but so are we.

The incarnation is the resurrection. The resurrection is the incarnation.

The story is told of a man who was searching for answers in his life. He found a very wise old woman. He thought maybe this old woman could give him the answers he was searching for. Thus he was surprised to hear the old woman speak of a great blunder she herself had been guilty of.

“What great blunder have you made?” the searcher asked the wise woman.

The wise woman thought for a moment and then replied, “They called me Christian, but I did not become Christ.”

That was an odd answer. The man was confused. “You did not become Christ?” he asked. “Is one supposed to become Christ?”

The wise old woman answered, “I kept putting distance between myself and Christ. I kept deploring the distance,” the old woman told her new friend. “But I never realized that I was creating it.”

“But,” the seeker insisted, “is one supposed to become Christ?”

“No distance,” the wise woman replied. [1]

The incarnation is the resurrection. The resurrection is the incarnation. In both Christ closes the distance between humanity and God until that day when we realize that in God we live and move and have our being.

The incarnation is the resurrection. The resurrection is the incarnation.

Merry Christmas. Amen.

[1] Adapted from a story from the book Tales of a Magic Monastery, by Theophane the Monk, © 1981 by Cistercian Abbey of Spencer, Inc.

1 comment:

Nik said...

Thanks Reverend Mom - am just about to head out to morning service, a little beary-eyed and fuzzy, and reading this has been refreshment and blessing. Glad you posted it!
Merry Christmas.