Christmas Engages Our Senses

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christmas-ornament-picture

Joining our humanity

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. We can no longer doubt he lives we live in the flesh matter to him.

The first heresy

The body is often depicted as the battle ground of our experience, not holy ground. 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. Our Bibles start with God’s good word over every ounce of matter made. God joining himself to that same matter. The story ends with his people seeing his face, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 (not light or some sort of spirit-gas). But it is still thought that our bodies are not important in the way we relate to God and each other.

A sensate story

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 involved or the writer depending on one of the senses for what is being conveyed.

Right where we are

The Christmas story involves the full spectrum of our senses – the pleasures and the pains. That is why it can be “good tidings of great joy to all people.” 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.

Title Signature Screenshot Cartoon 2015

The Staying Nature of God

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Roots

Second-class citizen

Perhaps like me, you have never felt a call to international ministry. Living in a family like ours, that emphasizes the ends of the earth like we do, can be tough. I have never lived internationally (does the summer I spent in the San Fransisco Bay area count?), so it is easy to feel like a second-class denominational-citizen.

With us always (& everywhere)

The going-to-the-nations part of the Great Commission is obvious, and typically the part emphasized. But at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises his presence wherever we may find ourselves. “I am with you always” (Matthew 18:20) It isn’t necessary to fly off to some far-flung corner of the world to find Jesus at work. 

Staying nature of God

Jesus is present, and at work, right where you are. The place you already live is the most obvious, and maybe overlooked, place to start ministry. Scholars and teachers have convinced Christians of the sending nature of God (the missio Dei). Perhaps more emphasis is needed on the staying nature of God (the incarnation). 

Staying in one place

There are amazing examples of fruitful ministries which have resulted from people staying in one place. Several I know personally are the late Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. He didn’t start there until he was 40, but labored for over 50 years at the same church. Wayne Gordon moved to the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago over 40 years ago. He is still there. My pastor, David Riemenschneider, came to Bloomingdale in 1978. I believe he has the longest tenure of anyone in our network of churches.

Simply sticking it out

Perhaps you are praying that God would bear more fruit where you are. His answer to that prayer could be through simply sticking it out. What if all God needs to produce a harvest is get you to stay put?

Title Signature Screenshot Cartoon 2015

Incarnation Means Matter Matters

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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.

Title Signature

 

Christmas, Winston Churchill, and Memory

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Links List for Christmas 2012

  1. Winston Churchill’s Christmas Eve message, 1941.
  2. A prayer about God’s Christmas memory.
  3. The story of Christmas – an animation.
  4. Are Christians fighting the wrong “War on Christmas”?
  5. It was a labor of pain…it was a labor of love.

For Fun:

Great Christmas decoration.

Quote:

“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”
J.I. Packer