IN the Spirit of Advent (week 5): INcarnation
Well, here we are, the last Sunday of 2016. … it’s been a rough year.
Terrorist Attacks and Violence all over the world
Ohio State University
David Bowie Alan Rickman
Dan Haggerty Glen Fry
Abe Vigoda Tony Burton
George Kennedy Nancy Reagan
Joe Santos James Noble
Dorris Roberts Prince
Mohammed Ali Anton Yelchin
Gene Wilder Arnold Palmer
Robert Vaughn Florence Henderson
Ron Glass John Glenn
Alan Thicke Zha Zha Gabor
And now Carrie Fisher is in the hospital for a cardiac event
We’ve seen increases in racism and violence against p.o.c. & l.e.
We’ve had a very contentious presidential election.
We’ve said farewell to a pastor and his family.
I could go on and on, but I don’t want to give more than one page to all that.
But here’s the good news … the Good News of great joy for all people! (John 3) [Jesus said] “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Christmas is the gift of an embodied God.
This is the story of God joining us, not only in spirit, but also in the flesh. This means that the grittiness of human life is sacred to God; a God who seeks to be with us, in the most real way.
If matter didn’t matter: we would like the Gnostics (warned against in the N.T.); we would have a lifeboat theology where we just hang on until Heaven; we would have a world that just gets discarded; and we would have a life that is just like some sadistic game of gotcha. There would be little reason for the embodiment of The Eternal Son as Jesus.
That embodiment is INcarnation (our last IN word for this series). INcarnation is Emmanuel … Emmanuel is God with us. INcarnation is God taking on human flesh at the Nativity.
Without the Incarnation, what point is there to all of the encouragements in Scripture to care for the very physical needs of humanity. Why would God tell us to care for the needs of the poor, to defend the vulnerable, or even to heal the sick? (considered good for gnostics?) Without the Incarnation, none of that would be important.
One author/theologian has even said that God “cares about our nostrils.”
He cares about our very breath, something so simple as how we breathe; how we eat and drink; how we communicate … He cares so much that he gives us embodied things to represent sacred things… water for baptism, bread and wine for communion … God has given us very real, very material things that we can touch and experience, things that communicate to our very real material existence.
We are embodied humans.
We bear the very Imago Dei (that is the Image of God) in us. Amongst all of creation, we are both material and spiritual, spiritual and material, Unified … not unlike how like Jesus is both divine and human. The whole incarnation – implies the importance of our humanity, of our material existence, of this world – even the whole universe. The implication of that importance is HUGE. That importance is the whole reason behind our Christmas Nativity. The whole of creation is broken and bent away from God. The Imago Dei (Image of God) in us is broken and in need of healing. The Eternal Son becomes embodied in human flesh to bring that healing. He is the Lord of this world as much as he is the Lord of the life to come. Living embodied in a world of matter causes us to ask questions where the world does not look like what we know of God.
There is a discord, (remember how we started with INspection?) this tension between what God desires and the way the world is. So we ask all kinds of questions about suffering and struggle, poverty and illness, injustice and violence … None of these things align with the design or desires of God and so our incarnate embodied existence allows us to experience; cold, heat, hunger, sorrow, joy, pain, anger, love, … experienced through our material selves & processed by our spiritual selves.
Think about the stories we tell one another.
Think about your favorite stories in Scripture …
[tell us your favorite stories]
These stories are representations of experiences. They’re conflict and need, they’re relationships, failures, victories, hunger, fear, joy, sadness, all kinds of truths realized through the telling of stories.
Disembodied ideas are hard to grasp… Issues are easier to ignore than people. Jesus knew this. This is why he came to be with us in the flesh. This is why he told parables. He turned “ideas” into stories, with people, and material experiences. He gave us sacraments, like baptism with water to represent death/grave He gave us bread and the fruit of the vine to represent his body/blood. He knew that we needed to experience these ideas, these spiritual truths. He knew that we needed that connection because we are embodied beings.