Something has occurred to me this holiday season. Christmas is a celebration of flesh. Seems kind of odd to say it that way, because usually I think of the flesh and the spirit at war with one another…at least that is what I have been taught, and my personal experience backs it up. Anyone who has tried to keep a New Year’s Resolution knows the pull of the flesh, whether it is trying to lose weight, or quit drinking or just have healthy relationships. The ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ is a common ailment of human behavior. My point with this line of thinking is that I have never considered the flesh as something to be celebrated. Yet, the essence, the core of the Christmas celebration is this…God with us…made flesh.
I don’t know if you have ever been to a birthing. I have been to four. Each time my body worked without my consent. It would not have mattered if I had been at the hospital or not, if I had been ready or not…at the time for them to come forth, my body forced the babies into the world. I was astounded each time at the power of it, and the amazement of a little human lying in my arms staring into my eyes… this little tiny thing, with a character completely separate from mine wrapped in pink flesh. Tiny fingers and toes…a miniature person, with the ability to breathe, and scream, and move all on its own. It is the most beautiful thing…messy, blood-bathed, and so very hard…and absolutely miraculous.
Of all the ways God could have come to Earth he came as a baby. Wrapped in flesh and bone. Tendons. Muscles. Teeth. Hair. Eyes…that SEE. Ears…that listen. A mouth that expresses love in words. Hands that reach out to ALL humans. Feet that walk in service. What a way for God to make an appearance. He could have come on a horse, or just appeared like a David Copperfield trick. He could have snuck into leadership somewhere or worked his way to a throne. But what we love about him is that he didn’t do any of those things. He turned things on their head and came humbly, and entirely human. Yes, he was still God…but for a moment in time…he chose flesh to cover his glory. He chose skin to wrap himself, as a gift to us. He didn’t have to. He could have stayed separate from us as a spiritual presence. It would have been cleaner. Less painful. Easier. But he didn’t. He instead, picked human form. To celebrate. To relate. To consummate. To become one with us.
We rejoice at this choice of his. Without it we would be lost and forever separate. God would be distant. Holy, but separate. But now, because of his choice to wrap himself in flesh, to become one of us…he has made humans holy beings. Our flesh is sacred to him. The body I buffet, he loves. The hair I wish was curly, he created. The hips I despise, he formed. He does not see my body as an enemy…but a work of art…a creation of by his hand. A holy thing. Created in his image, to contain his image. This is the season of the incarnation…the celebration of flesh made whole and holy…by a baby.
This is the God-gift that we eventually ripped open and hung up for the world to see…not in the glorious way in which such a gift should have been received…. another messy, blood-bathed and hard human moment… that was absolutely miraculous. Sacred and holy, in every way. All for love. All for grace. God with us. Emmanuel. The incarnation and celebration of flesh. Merry Christmas.