As we embark upon a new year, just a few days into 2019, I am sure I ponder some of the same things as you. First, how time passes so quickly – in the blink of an eye. And yet, I find myself contemplating anew the meaning of life and the journey we are on. Second, what are we to do in the midst of this? In other words, what is our response? Should we even have a response? Well, yes! It is too easy to just accept what we know and live out our days faithfully. Perhaps we think we already know it all. But, the reality is we are capable of so much more!
One way to respond is to seek the deeper truth… to pick up the scriptures and theological writings and try to understand the purpose and meaning of life beyond what we know – the purpose found in our Creator; to be challenged and allow different reasons and perspectives to push us in uncomfortable ways. I have been re-reading some of my theological books from my Seminary days, allowing them to have a conversation with each other and refresh and stretch me. I am reminded, as we have been traveling through Advent and celebrating the joy of Christmas, we need not look any further than the Incarnation of our Lord in a Bethlehem cave. The birth of Jesus was necessary – the manger and the cross need each other, as they do not stand alone!
Early in the second century, Justin Martyr, one of the first Christian Apologists (Defenders of the faith) wrote in defense of the “Logos”. Logos is Greek for “Word; reason and wisdom” – “the true light that enlightens everyone”. Martyr explained the “Logos” as the preexistent Word (the Christ) who was present in the beginning with God the Father. Before Jesus’ birth there were those who attempted to reason out the laws of nature and the purpose and meaning of life. Some of the great philosophers such as Plato and Socrates were asking and exploring the same deep questions that Christians have been pondering, and “Justin added that there were also among the pagans those who knew the same ‘Logos’, however dimly. Whatever truth there is in the writings of Plato was granted to him by the Logos of God, the same Logos who was incarnate in Jesus. Therefore, in a small way, Socrates, Plato, and other sages of antiquity ‘were Christians,’ for their wisdom came from Christ. This is not to say, however, that the incarnation was not needed, for those philosophers of old knew the Logos ‘in part,’ whereas those who have seen him in his incarnation know him ‘fully’.” (The Story of Christianity, Gonzalez)
The incarnation was needed because God created us and all that is for “communion”… to be together and to eternally grow together. God broke into finite time and space in which we dwell and experienced our humanness. The purpose of life, therefore, is to grow deeper and in greater communion with God; and simply put, we do this by communing together in the worship of our God. It is all about community and togetherness finding ways to offer our thanks and praise.
My prayer for St. Stephen’s as a whole and each of you individually in this New Year, is that we continue to grow deeper in our faith seeking that greater communion with the Lord by worshiping together; loving and serving each other and beyond in the way Jesus taught us. Merry Christmas, Blessed Epiphany, and Happy New Year!