There's a young man I know that,
a few years ago, would amaze us with his ability to take
a few different colors of Sculpey clay and create
miniature models of everyone's favorite animated
characters. He didn't have to look at any drawings, the
images were firmly planted in his mind and then his
fingers would skillfully roll, pinch, and shape minute
pieces into figures so true to the artists' originals. I
remember most vividly Johnny Bravo's tall blond crew cut
and little black sunglasses.
Now, if I were to take clay in
hand, every thing would come out looking like the
Michelin Tire man. But this young man, named Ryan, has a
talent with the very material with which God created us
long ago in the Garden, and yet it is not life.
When Michelangelo was a little
boy, one of his friends gave him a small Greek sculpture
of a human form, half chiseled from the marble. For the
rest of his life, Michelangelo kept that little statue
by his bed. It was the last thing he saw before he went
to sleep, the first thing he saw when he awoke. For him
it became a symbol of man's anguished effort to be
liberated from the prison of his own ignorance.
Michelangelo devoted his whole life to freeing figures
from stone. Sometimes it would take him months, even
years. Always he began with a vision of the man or the
woman locked up in the stone. He said, 'It is my job, my
task, to set that man, that woman, free.' And for any of
us who have had a glimpse of his great works, you know
that he was able to release not only perfect human form,
but emotion and passion that springs from the depth of
human existence. And, yet, it was not life itself.
No, the greatest artists of our
time can only illuminate and illustrate that which we
know as life…and our greatest scientists perhaps can
replicate something that already exists. But the source,
the source of all that we know came among us centuries
ago in a small town known as Bethlehem.
For the last several days, we
have been celebrating the birth of a man named Jesus. We
have heard the accounts of Matthew and Luke read here in
church telling the story we know so well of the
courtship of Mary and Joseph, their long journey and the
visitors both humble and heavenly that came to that
stable to declare the importance of this child. On
Thursday we officially honor the arrival of the magi
whose presence tells not only Mary and Joseph - but the
world that Jesus is not simply a humble carpenter's son,
but the true king of all peoples and all nations. And,
as the year goes by we will read again the stories that
ground Jesus in our earthly existence.
But the prologue to the Gospel
of John takes us in a different direction far different
from the other gospels. In a way you could say it takes
us back in time to the beginning. Back to the time of
the creation of the earth, the stars, the universe…that
is when Jesus first got involved in our lives. For he
was the artist with the vision and the hands that
crafted the clay. And in him was life.
It's easiest for most of us to
think of Jesus as the baby who grew up, that his
beginning was similar to a normal human child. He was
conceived out of the Father's love for all humanity…and
because of that love, Jesus was born as a son to Mary.
But the gospel writer of John understood Jesus as so
much more. In his writing, he used a Greek term "logos"
that we translate as the Word. But this word is more
than just the common idea of speaking…even more than the
words God used during creation. The Greeks understood
this term more in the sense of "reason." The activity of
the mind that takes information and processes it,
considers it, energizes it, and acts upon it. John
understood Jesus to be the embodiment of the very
thoughts of God, the reasoning ability that gives order
to the entire universe. Some of our high tech products
these days use some form of the word logos, like
logitech, to describe the amazing ability of computers
that we have created to do our thinking for us.
But John was going for something
else. In verse 16, he talks about the fullness of the
"Word." And, indeed there is so much more to Jesus than
meets the eye. In the days of Jesus, people were looking
for a military and political leader to get them out of
Roman control. The poor were looking for someone to make
their life richer, the hungry wanted to be fed, the sick
to be healed. And Jesus was capable of meeting their
every need. But John spoke also about Jesus being the
true light that would enlighten everyone. How he gave
power to those who believed to become children of God,
who would be reborn by the will of God…not the will of
the flesh or the will of man…but the will of God. Again
he is talking about God's thoughts…not ours.
Jesus came to teach us how to
fulfill our purpose and our destiny, to teach us what
God meant for us to be. Our lives are a process of
growing, changing, and learning and in that process our
minds grow closer to the mind of God.
Erma Bombeck wrote a book about
kids that have cancer and the ability these children
have to cut through "what might have been" or the "maybe's"
to the reality of the present. One little five year old
boy named Bert loves to draw. One day he was asked
whether he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He
looked straight at that adult's eyes and said, "I am an
In God's eyes, we have today. We
have now. In Jesus, we have the ability to live this
moment…not exist, but live. God's Word set this
existence into motion and then came to live in it with
us in the form of Jesus so that we might understand more
of what life truly means. Michelangelo grasped what
Christ was about when he set about to free figures from
stone. Jesus was about setting us free from the stones
that we chain to our lives. Another artist, Vincent Van
Gogh once said that he was not interested in painting
blossoms - but rather in blossoming.
Jesus wants us to blossom, to
grow, to reason with the mind of God, to discover that
we live because God gave us life. Rabbi Zusia, stated
before he died, "When I face the celestial tribunal, I
shall not be asked why I was not an Abraham, Jacob or
Moses, but why I was not Rabbi Zusia."