Incarnation- what does it mean?Sometimes it seems like a rather baffling and bewildering doctrine in which we might profess our belief, but which really don’t understand.
What does the incarnation really mean?
Yes, of course, always, it means that God chose to enter into our humanity, in all of its fullness and foibles, its power and pain, its joys and sorrows.
Yes, of course it means that God would even experience death itself, only to defeat its determined grip on our lives and turn it into eternal life.
The incarnation is a revelation of God, but it is also a revelation of WHO WE ARE.
In God’s decision to become human our humanity matters.
God’s commitment to inhabit a fleshly, stinky, awkward body as Jesus did means that our bodies matter.
in God’s determination to be known in the flesh lies the realization that serving the world in the flesh matters.
I suspect that my perspective on Christmas this year, has a lot to do with my dad’s death on thanksgiving Eve and my own 60th birthday a few months before.
This birthday was rather stunning to me. On many levels.
Why? Well, it’s sixty. It’s not death- but you can see it from there.
As October 8th rolled around- I began to get uneasy- No birthday party for me. No cake! No party favors, or presents.
I was beginning to feel my own mortality. Ugh. Scary.
Then, with my dad’s death on Thanks giving Eve I began to look back over those 60 years- And my dad’s even longer 91 years With a growing sense of awe and gratitude.
This not in spite of my dad’s two decade long battle with Alzheimers’- But because of it.
My step mom and I went through their storage unit on Thanksgiving Day And we assembled the memorabilia for the presentation table at my dad’s funeral.
As we did so, I began to hold in my hands the evidence of dad’s long and productive life- His basketball team picture, His discharge papers from the Army, My parents wedding album, And pictures from his wedding to my step mom.
Photos from dad’s retirement party And from the many trips they took mementos of dad’s work in the church as an elder and teacher and his many years of service in the Kiwanis club.
Who’d a thunk it.
In a slightly cold and dimly lit self storage locker in Branson MO My dad’s life became real for me.
In that becoming real I came face to face once again with what the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ means for my dad, for me, for you, for all humanity.
That God was born, that God became human, means that you and I matter – that you and I are special and real.
not in some sort of narcissistic, egocentric, kind of way but because to be human can never be a generalized claim.
To be human is to be you. Be you.
And no, it’s not all about you, but it’s everything about you.
The incarnation is this radically reciprocal reality.
It didn’t just happen in a straw covered stable In a small Jewish town Half a world away Two millennia ago.
Incarnation keeps happening To us and In us And through us, As God becomes real to us, And we become real also to God.
From the day we are born To the day we return to God . God’s commitment to being human in Jesus is God also saying, “I am committed to you being you and being fully you.” It is God saying “I love the truly real you.”
One of my favorite childrens’ stories Is The Velveteen Rabbit By Margery Williams.
In that book, The veleveteen rabbit has a series of adventures That lead him to ask of his friend, The skin horse, this very important Question: What is real?
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you.
When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become real. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
Let us understand this Christmas morning the gift from God of God’s very real self for the sake of you and I being our very real selves so that the world might indeed know God’s very real love – in, through, and because of you.