Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Word made flesh who dwells among us. Amen.
Merry Christ and a Happy New Year to you all. Thanks be to God that we bade farewell to such a drawn-out year. As one often does at the commencement of a new year, one reflects upon the the challenges faced, the joys experienced, and the lessons learned from the previous year so that we may live more wisely than years prior. On New Years day during the PBS News Hour, celebrated columnists David Brooks and Ruth Marcus reflected upon the quality of our life together during such a pandemic-filled and divisive year. The typically optimistic David Brooks stressed a totalizing failure of society; ourselves, our institutions, our neighbor, none were spared. Ruth Marcus, on the other hand, had a more “positive” ring to her assessment; we learned much this past year. Our life together may weather the storms of life and that we are responsible to each other. I think that Mary Oliver put this assessment of life, of lessons gained as wisdom for the year to come, in this way that, “the vitality of what was is married to the vitality of what will be.” That in our life together as the body of Christ, we have heard and experienced much wisdom in this year that sustained us through this time.
As we usher in in this year during a Christmas season unlike any we have experienced, we once more turn to the story of Christmas as the wisdom of God for the commencement of an uncertain year; where the light of life meets the a world of great uncertainty. Both in our first lesson and our Gospel text, the word of God’s wisdom illuminates our need for wisdom, truth, and grace, shinning a light to guide our path forward to the long-expected end of our pandemic life.
In our first lesson, the wisdom of God appears as an omnipotent governess giving praise to God’s works done through her. She covers the world as a mist and visits every territory and people desiring a resting place for her that is quite unlike her own throne in heaven. Our author, Ben Sira, writing in 2nd century BCE, a time of relative peace for the Jewish people, presents wisdom as an omnipotent governess, encompassing a vast array of foliage, jewels and gifts as a way of directing his listeners gaze towards the embodiment of wisdom in their midst. Wisdom was not necessarily to be gained by Greek philosophy but by attending to the story of God with his people in the Torah. For Ben Sira, wisdom, the type of wisdom that governs and glorifies the creator God as portrayed in the Torah, is the wisdom of recognition; recognizing that God is God and that nothing, not even we are God.
The resting place of this wisdom, has been made manifest in the life of the people of Israel. Hence when Wisdom states, “then the creator of all gave me this command and my creator chose the spot for my tent,” one thinks of the story of the wilderness journey. That the wisdom for life together, the wisdom of recognizing that God is at the heart of our life together, rests in the story of covenant, enslavement, freedom, Kingship, Captivity and Return; the story of a people who struggle with God and who recognize God as the source of their life. This story is the wisdom itself, dwelling richly in their bodies. For us now as reflect upon where our lessons for this coming year shall spring forth, we hear wisdom’s praise beckon us to join her in the story of Torah. Through this storied wisdom, God shines into our hearts the vitality, the goodness, the grace that sustained our life together this past year, the What was of our lives, so that we may meet the changing circumstances of this year, the what will be, with the indwelling wisdom of the torah; that God is God and as such, re-creates the world anew for abundant life.
For John and his community, this insight that God is God, who creates the world anew for abundant life, guided their reflection on the identity of Jesus Christ; their teacher, brother and savior. Who was this person, born of Mary in a humble manager, that shinned the light of life into their world of need? When John says that Jesus is the word of God, he is reflecting on the quality of life with Jesus; the wisdom of God that drew them and transformed them into witnesses of wisdom. In their very midst, eating with them, drinking with them, weeping, laughing and teaching, was the embodiment of abundant life that comes from God. This all encompassing presence of God, of course, was a lesson found within the people of Israel, in the sacred story of Torah but the quality of this wisdom was different for John and his community. The abundance of this gracious life, the fullness of the indwelling of God’s wisdom transformed their lives into a life open towards the what will be of the horizon of God’s life with us.
We too experience the word made flesh in our lives, the grace upon grace of God, in a very tangible way now; as tangible as bread and wine; as cool as springs of living water, bubbling from streams or fonts. This new way of God dwelling with us, through the person of Jesus, in the tangible expressions of the word made flesh among us brings us into the story of Israel as the story of the indwelling presence of God. The story of Israel and the tangible expressions of the word made flesh root our expectations and lessons for this coming year in God’s abundant life. This life that illuminates humanity is a light that shines forth in wisdom. A wisdom that recognizes God as God and that God takes on flesh so that we may recognize God as giver of life. So we too, take the opportunity to take our story this year into the very heart of God so that we may see where God’s wisdom may shine brightly and make us attentive to our neighbor’s own yearning for abundant life.
What does that means for us today? Transformation of the What was into the what will be- a transformation into a more tangible expression of abundant life with God in both a new an old way. Liturgy, music, worship. Alpha and Omega, Long expected dwelling of God among us with wisdom by his side.