“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14, The Message (Eugene Peterson)
I’ve been pondering the Incarnation. (“Incarnation” comes from the same root word as “meat.” So it’s the Christian doctrine that says God became meat.) What exactly is this gift of Jesus that we celebrate these twelve days of Christmas? What does it mean to say that “Jesus is the reason for the season”?
These are easy questions for Christians who believe in and practice sacrificial atonement: Jesus is the only Son of God, sent into the world in human form by God to take my sins upon him and to die for me. If I believe this I go to Heaven instead of Hell. Jesus needed to be born in a stable in Bethlehem so that he could die on the cross for me. Without Christmas, there is no Easter, and no salvation.
I am not one of those Christians. For me, Jesus is the supreme example of how to live in the world as fully human – fully engaged with his friends, his community, his family, his world, and his Source. Christmas means that the energy we call God is fundamentally interwoven in the fabric of the world. Creation is God. The universe, and all creation, is made of holiness. I sin when I sell myself and others short – when I forget that God lives in me, and in them. (This alternative understanding of Jesus is gleaned from the writings of Marcus Borg, Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and others.)
What good is it to believe these things about God and Jesus and the Universe if no one else benefits? So what if I spend an hour every morning praying and journaling and meditating if it doesn’t show on the outside? What difference does it make to have a spiritual life if my embodied life and the physical lives of those around me aren’t more beautiful as a result?
I’m beginning to conclude that a relationship with God that exists only in my heart and my head is pretty worthless. I am called to incarnate God in my physical embodied life. A spiritual life that doesn’t bear physical fruit isn’t real.
Last week’s blog touched on some practices to welcome darkness and the New Year. Yesterday a group of us worked through this process A Word for the New Year to discern a word for 2015. My word for 2015 seems to be “shine.” What’s yours?