Interstellar, General Relativity and John Chapter 1
John 1 - Christmas Eve
To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
The world turns around the sun and we find ourselves once again in mid winter…..the dark and cold….a time of waiting and a time of hope.
Winter and darkness as necessary times and as helpful times has been a strong theme for me this year.
Jane Manfredi reflects that darkness can be good and is not always a thing of inherent negativity….the dark can be a place of goodness where some of our most treasured memories, some of the most important events of our lives often take place…
…many of us come to recognise God the creator on dark starry nights staring into the abyss and the mysteries of the universe….we have all emerged from times of personal sadness and darkness …discovering new truths about ourselves and the new strengths we never knew we had.
We may have been loved in the dark…in sleep we often know comfort, refuge and rest.
New life of course begins in the dark whether it's a seed in the soil or God being born in the gloom of a stable or indeed God overcoming death and sin in the dark of the tomb on Easter morning.
Like the robin singing during early dawn …to the star-filled night, to unimaginably distant suns, planets and blackholes …to all dark matter ….I believe we recognise that yes we are children of dark and light…but it is the light we ultimately seek.
The light shines in the darkness and darkness has not overcome it.
It's Christmas Eve and we come again in the darkness, looking for the light and warmth of the stable, the cave, the place where new life has come. Where we find Jesus, the Word of God with us.
The passage we have from John this evening is so mysterious and so powerful.
It articulates something of the magnitude of the Christ event and we get a glimpse into the meaning and purpose of God and the incarnation or birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
Jesus is the Word of God...… the presence…the very being and nature of God both creating and breaking into the universe - to be with us - and the Word of God is love.
In Jesus we are given a face for God…..for God, who up until this point, is beyond our understanding, who is so sacred we cant even know or say his name.
One of my favourite films is Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar….it's one of those marmite films but it's one I recommend. I’ve watched it 3 times now and I’m starting to understand it…I think!
Interstellar explores the significance of our lives as humans on Earth and the future our children might experience.
In summary, it's the story of a journey taken by some astronauts to save the world…and in this adventure they have to move through vast distances….. Overcoming the limitations and restrictions created by time and space, including gravity in the process.
Christopher Nolan collaborated with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to make sure the film accurately depicted various theories of physics, including Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and various other scientific concepts, from wormholes to black holes, and gravity to time dilation.
None of which I confess I fully understand.
In the midst of all of this mid-blowing explanations of the universe in the film…there is an emotional and tense exchange between two of the astronauts - lost in the midst of nowhere… Unimaginably so far from home …one astronaut is called Cooper and the other Brand….as they come to realise it is only love that is real and it is only love that is able to transcend time and space.
Brand says: ‘Love isn't something we invented…it's observable, powerful …..it has to mean something’.
Cooper responds: ‘Love has meaning….yes social utility, social bonding, child rearing …..’
Brand: ‘But we love people who have died….where is the social utility in that?’
Brand: ‘Maybe it means something more, something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space’.
Each and every time I hear this exchange in the film, I’m back at the stable in Bethlehem and I’m hearing the words of John’s Gospel. The answers are there - we just have to let them in and recognise them.
John is explaining to us that God is outside of time and space and he wants us to know more of him - he wants us to come closer to him….he wants us to make our homes with him.
To do this God enters time and space for us so that we can come to know him. So that we can come to know and experience the power of love.
Out of love, through love, for the cause of love and as love God enters the world - and is born in a stable….for me, for you, for the world, indeed for the whole universe. For God to be known. For love to be known.
Emmanuel is the name given to Jesus which means God with us.
You don't have to be a physicist or an astronaut and cross time and space to know this. In the Christmas story and in our hearts we know the power of love to be true.
The God of love, through the birth of Jesus, brings and shows us the divine power of forgiveness, mercy, peace, gentleness, nonviolence, wisdom, compassion and reckless generosity.
The invitation of Christ and the Christian way is to know this and join with God in the cause and work of love - for Love to become known and realised in us, through us and around us.
For the Word to be made flesh within us.
Ursula Le Guin said ‘Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new’.
And that's the work of love we see in Jesus, in his ministry, his teaching and of course his work on the cross for all of us.
I believe that whenever we are kind, when we show mercy, compassion and unconditional love we are joining with Jesus in the work and meaning of Christmas.
We are working with God and incarnating love into the world today.
Have you ever shown unexpected kindness? Forgiven before being asked for forgiveness? Brought peace during times of conflict? Fed the hungry? Hugged, healed and loved the unloved, the sick and the dying? Has someone else ever done those things to or for you?
If you answered yes to any one of those questions then you can also say that you have known once again the Word made flesh…..the love of the Word that transcends time and space - God active and working with us today.
Howard Thurman writes in his poem entitled “The Work of Christmas.”
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
It's Christmas Eve…
It’s a time of darkness and light. When we give thanks for God coming amongst us and showing us the reality and power of love - the power that is beyond time and space.
Love, the divine order and purpose of God, and his creation.
It's time to join this song of love and “to make music in the heart.” To join with God in the work and flourishing of love.
To let the Word of God, the hard work of love, become flesh within you and me. To bring light to the darkness of the world.
I wish you a blessed and happy Christmas. Amen