Of the Father's love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source the ending He
Of the things that are, that have been
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.
The lyrics are by one ancient church father named Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, dating to the fourth century. In our Lutheran hymnals, the beautiful five verses are set to stunningly simple and flowing music, a plainsong from the 13th century. It's one of the oldest liturgical pieces we have. It's by far one of the most beautiful.
It's not about the cuteness of a baby, the quietness of a night that wasn't quiet--what with displaced people scrambling for shelter before darkenss left them at the hands of robbers or raping Roman soldiers extorting protection money.
No, "Of the Father's Love Begotten" is actually one of the most beautiful Christian creeds we own--if we would choose to see it as such. It tells God's story. It's not about what we humans have projected onto a single night or a few days surrounding it that we really have no way of knowing a whole lot about. It's about what God has been doing eternally.
And, no, unlike every children's pageant and program, unlike every courthouse/church lawn nativity scene, unlike every creche on living room mantles, the shepherds, the eastern astologers and the newborn child were not all there simultaneously.
If the world had not been very imperfect, the Perfect would not have needed to enter it so intimately.
The gospel text for this Sunday, the day after Christmas, is from Matthew 2. The Holy Family is on the run, escaping to Egypt. On the run for the life of their child, on the run for their own lives if they had been caught defying Herod's order. A paranoid megalomaniac who does not hesitate to murder siblings, spouses, children will not bat an eyelash wiping out a couple of fleeing peasants who might constitute a threat to Herod's power.
Here God begins. Or continues... Here God chooses to crawl inside of human flesh that can't even walk, talk or feed itself. Here God forsakes "lording it over" and chooses to live under the world that so desperately needs hope, help, healing and a whole host of things besides redemption.
So God begins where God always does: with nothing, or next to nothing. In weakness, not strength. In vulnerability, not supremacy. In flesh, not just spirit.
In life, not in death.
In order to spend time with us for all time.
It's begotten in love. Always was. Ever shall be.
Fall on your knees. Hear the angel voices. Where you least expect to find them.