Incarnate – in the flesh. Christmas is often spiritualized to the point where the fleshy-ness of it sometimes gets lost. Candlelight and soothing hymns. Soft glow and warm fuzzies in our hearts. All is calm … all is bright …But Christmas is all about the incarnation – it’s all about the flesh. It’s all about real life in the here and now.
Childbirth is messy. I know, I’ve seen a couple now. There is blood and fluid everywhere. There is pain and tears, exhaustion and an anxiety you can feel right down to your bones. Babies are messy (why had I never heard of meconium before my son was born? – ugh! … ) Fluids and leaks and mucus everywhere! Life is messy. Even as we get older there is blood everywhere (from the scraped knees and elbows to noses, to lost teeth). There is fluid everywhere (runny noses, puss-filled wounds, blisters, and vomit). We who live in this body are forever cleaning up after it. In between there may be spiritual moments, but on the whole life is messy and often painful!
And that is what Christ was born on that first Christmas to be a part of. The messiness of life in the body. Our human body. Both in birth and later in death, as the water and blood would flow from his spear-pierced side. Christmas is a time for delving into the true impact of Christ’s human flesh upon our own.
Consider that during the first three days after Christmas the Christian Church celebrates three separate Saint’s days. St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, stoned to death for proclaiming God incarnate. St. John the Apostle, condemned to live out his long and lonely last years in exile from the ones he loved. The Holy Innocents, the baby boys of Bethlehem, murdered by King Herod simply because their flesh was too much like Christ’s, the intended victim. Each in their own way is a tale of fleshly suffering and grief. Down to earth, messy lives, where blood and tears flowed. Yet in Christ’s incarnation, in His suffering, death and bodily resurrection those lives were cleaned up, their tears dried up, and their bodies even now await the resurrection of all flesh at the coming of our Lord in glory.
Christmas has never been about escaping the bonds of the flesh for a time, that we might elevate ourselves to some spiritual experience. It is about sharing in the flesh with our Lord and Saviour. Sharing in His sufferings now so that we might share in His glories later. It is about the water of Holy Baptism that makes His life our own. It is about His Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith.
Here’s wishing you a fleshy, messy, Christmas season!