December 15, 2010

The Incarnation Three Ways

One of the shows that has made the DVR cut in our household is the Food Network's Chopped. In it, four chef's battle through three courses and baskets full of mystery ingredients to win $10,000. I've learned a lot from the show. Chocolate and cayenne go well together. Black chickens are gross. Ice cream is hard to make in 30 minutes. Etc.

One thing I've noticed over the course of the shows two seasons is that "Three Ways" is a very popular menu note. Chef's take great pride in using an ingredient three ways. For example, braised duck thighs atop pate de foie gras topped with duck fat potatoes. Duck, three ways.

Over the course of the past few months I've been noticing the "three ways" theme showing up in the way I prepare sermons, and the next two weeks is no exception. It seems to me that Advent 4, Christmas Eve/Day, and the First Sunday after Christmas invite the preacher to examine the Incarnations three ways.

The first opportunity is this Sunday with Joseph's dream. The angel tells Joseph to name Mary's child Jesus, which literally translates at "The LORD saves." Somewhat nonsensicly, Matthew shares this to show how Jesus fulfills a prophecy, but in that prophecy he is called Emmanuel which literally translates "God is with us." So, then, the first way we might look at the Incarnation is in the name(s) given to Jesus; names that are given very intentionally. What does it mean that The LORD saves by way of God with us?

The second opportunity is on Friday night/Saturday morning when most church goers will hear Luke's great birth narrative in which the heavenly chorus tell shepherds watching their flocks by night that unto them has been born "a savior, Christ the Lord." Here we might look at what it means to call Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed one. What does it mean that Jesus, born of Mary is our savior?

Finally, on Sunday we hear the great prologue to John in which we have those great and wonderful words about the Word who became flesh and (literally) pitched his tent in our midst. Here we hear of Jesus as diety much more so than in Matthew or Luke. Here we see Jesus as God, as the light who came into the world. What does it mean that the Word became flesh and, as Eugene Peterson puts it, "moved into the neighborhood."

I'm in an increasingly rare position as a second priest here at St. Paul's. I know many of you will have the duty of preaching all three days, while I am only preaching Christmas I. I don't know if St. Paul's will hear the Incarnation Three Ways. I imagine they won't as I think I know where Keith is headed this weekend, but they most certainly will hear it two ways (my imaginary dish above sounds a lot tastier to me without the pate de foie gras anyway). But maybe you've been looking for a link, a way to make this holy week connect. Maybe you could try the Incarnation, Three Ways.

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