John 1:14 - Enfleshing the mystery
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
When you play the game of rugby you have to decide what to do when you receive the ball. Do I try to run through the opposition, or do I pass the ball onto another player?
A question that challenges us all at Christmas is: will I receive the Christ? Then there is a second question: if I receive Christ what do I do next? Will I run with him or offload him?
Christmas is about receiving Jesus as a baby but what do we do next? Do we gently put him down, give him back or pass on the message we have received? What do we do next?
John’s Gospel tells us that the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. God’s glory was revealed in the life of Jesus as he lived among us in the fullness of grace and truth. In his life Jesus was fleshing out the wonder and mystery of God and that is what we are asked to do with the gift of Christ that we have received this Christmas morning: to enflesh the mystery of God.
In a busy street in Calcutta a young nun sat cradling a poor man in her arms, trying to give him some comfort until he took his last breath and died. She then arranged for his body to be removed. She returned to the convent late that evening. She was very sad. Another sister inquired as to what she was doing. The young nun replied, “I have been holding the body of Christ for the past two hours” (Story from the book Body and Soul by Fintan Creaven). Not only was she holding the body of Christ as she held the dying man, but she was also being the body of Christ. She was Christ to the dying man.
St Irenaeus said, the glory of God is revealed in a human being fully alive. Fintan Creaven says, ‘We too need, in various ways, to bring the reality of God to life for ourselves.’ Through our lives we are receiving and bringing the life of God to earth; that God’s glory may be revealed through our lives. It begins by being born from above, with a seed of mystery and hope sown deep within us and which comes to bear fruit as we let the mystery of that life flow from our hearts; receiving and giving love from lives that are not driven by the ego, or by the desires for power and wealth; but in intentional and chosen surrender, laying down our lives like Christ.
The Christian life is not one of hanging onto the Christ child for dear life. In rugby if you hang onto the ball too long one usually ends up at the bottom of the heap, with people jumping in on top of you from all angles and all sides.
A time comes when we release the gift and with it release our lives to God, that we too might enflesh the truth and grace of God and reveal the mystery and glory of God on earth. What a thought that is, that the mystery of God is enfleshed in our bodies. Never think less of ourselves for we are the body of Christ. Like the dying man on the streets of Calcutta, people need to be held by an enfleshed God, a living loving real person who cares and loves without judgement. People need others who will help carry with them their suffering and wounds and worries and their sins.
Today we will share some of our money with others in need though the Christmas Bowl offering. This is good. It is good to give. But the greatest crisis facing earth today needs more than loose change; it needs an enfleshed God who shows a love and care not just for people but for soil and water, for air and animals and fish and birds, for all creation. As we receive God, in Christ, our eyes and ears are opened to the cry and suffering of all creation and our hearts are softened and our arms extend in embrace of all, as God embraces us in love.
May Christ be born in us today and may the mystery of God be enfleshed in our lives. Amen.
Photo: Jervis Bay, New South Wales
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Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation