Mary Incarnation Emmanuel


Christmas reminds us that God’s intention is not to separate us from our humanity – our real lives, in real bodies – but to join us in our humanity. Christianity doesn’t remove us from the human experience, into a separate spiritual experience. Christmas is the simple reminder that God joined us in the flesh and the lives we live in the flesh matter to him.

The body is often depicted as the battle ground of our experience, not holy ground. It seems the first heresy the church faced – gnosticism, in which matter is evil and therefore doesn’t matter (see what I did there) – has never gone away. Even though our Bibles start with God’s good word over every ounce of matter made, tells the story of that same God joining himself to that matter, and ends with his people seeing his face (not light or some sort of spirit-gas), it is still thought that our bodies are not important in the way we relate to God and each other.

Christianity deals with physical realities. This isn’t God in the abstract. The incarnation is God coming into this world of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. It is a very sensate story. The Bible is a sensate book. I don’t think you can read a page of it without the mention of a character’s senses being involves or the writer depending on one of the senses for what is being conveyed.

The Christmas story involves the full spectrum of our senses – the pleasures and the pains. That’s why it can be “good tidings of great joy to all people.” Because it means God has come to us right where we are – in the flesh. Barbara Brown Taylor says, “The body makes theologians of us all: Why me? Why like this? Why here? Why this long?” We may not have good answers for all of those, but we can rest assured that it’s important and has meaning, because God is with us in it.

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