Flesh

 

"The Nativity", Lorenzo Lotto, 1527-1528
“The Nativity”, Lorenzo Lotto, 1527-1528

Scripture Passages for Reflection:

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The Gospel writers all seemed to struggle a bit to fully convey the wonder, the unfathomable glory, of this night.  In fact, the writer that we know as Mark didn’t even really try.  He or she just jumped right in proclaiming the Good News, seemingly in a tremendous hurry to get the word out.  For the writer of Matthew’s Gospel, he seemed to only be able to state it with some proof of what it was not.  (In other words, this is no ordinary birth.)  And the writer that we call Luke seemed very focused on the physical place of Jesus’ birth and the realization that there really was no room.  But years later, the writer of John’s Gospel, conveyed a notion with which we still struggle:  that God in God’s wisdom after centuries upon centuries of trying to deal with humanity, after years of drawing us toward the Divine, of showing us a vision that God has for each of us, became flesh, one of us.  On this night, God is born human, fully human, into a world that was never really ready, never really prepared (and probably still isn’t).  And, yet, God must have loved the world, even THIS world, more than life itself, to come into it as one of us.  God became human and lived with us.  Incredible thought, isn’t it?

The Incarnation is God’s unveiling, God’s coming out of the darkness and the shadows and the clouds and showing us for the first time what we could not see before. Emmanuel, God With Us, this day walks into our ordinariness.  God has traversed time and space and all things Divine to enter our every day world.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said that “by virtue of the creation, and still more of the incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.”  Perhaps God came into this ordinary world to show us the holiness that had been created, the sacredness that in our worldliness, we were somehow missing. God steps into our lives to show us the depths to which we have not allowed ourselves to dig.   No longer can flesh and humanity be deemed “bad”; God came as flesh, came as human, came as one of us.  It would be easy to dismiss the whole thing as something that “seemed” like one of us because, after all, this is God.  And what would God be doing fooling around with the squalor and feebleness of this world?  You see, it is not that God lowered the Godself to our standard but that God’s coming raised us toward the Divine.  And notice in the Christmas stories how they emphasize the lowliness of the surroundings and the danger to the child as much as the miraculous glory of the event.  By entering human existence, even God faces down the power of evil, sin, and death.  In love, God elects to be no more immune than we are from the dangers to love and life.

Thomas Merton once said that “the Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ.”  It is all this waiting, all this preparing that we have done that has put us in this place.  It is the place that humbles and amazes at once.  Who would have ever thought?  Who would have ever written the story such that a baby’s birth on a cold desert night in the midst of social turmoil would be the in-breaking of the Godself into our world, Emmanuel, God With Us.  After all this time, all this waiting for God, this hoping against hope that God would show up and pull us out of the mire of humanity, God comes full on into it, not pretending to be like us but becoming one of us.  God came to show us how to be who we are, who we are called to be, and to show us that, once again, it is very, very good.  So, on this night of nights, as the Light begins to dawn and we realize that God has come bursting into our lives and into our world, let us open our eyes and rub the sleep out of them and finally see this thing that has happened.
Reflection:  On this night of nights, what does God in our midst mean for you?  How can this year be different?
Merry Christmas!
Shelli

One thought on “Flesh

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