And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace. And because of this everything is different. No matter how hard that is to believe some times including this year. (John 1:1-14) Because God became flesh, became one of us, everything is different. We know we are loved not simply from some far-away safe heaven but we are loved from within the human condition, from under the rubble, from within the joys and fears of our particular situation.
You may also wish to read my reflections on the Luke account of the birth of the Holy Child.
And because God became flesh and dwelt among us all flesh is to be honoured as sacred. Not just beautiful new born baby flesh but the papery thin flesh of the old and frail. The flesh of the leper and the unbelievably perfect. The flesh of our nearest and dearest and the flesh of the stranger, even our enemy, in far-away places. The flesh of each living creature - from our favourite non human members of the household to the endangered species of microscopic strange things. The flesh of trees splendid in display and struggling by a dry creek bed. The flesh of our planet melting and boiling in distress. The flesh of the star we call our sun.
Because of Christmas all flesh is sacred. Jesus’ simple but demanding life made that apparent. Enjoying the life of the flesh so much he was called a drunkard and a glutton. Preferring the company of those whose flesh was shunned – the tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers – and healing all whose flesh was broken. Taking into his own flesh, into his body, the wounds of us all. And making solid the promises of eternity in his resurrected flesh.
How differently we might live if we embraced the claim that God became flesh and all its implications?
Our own flesh is sacred – not necessarily perfect or beautiful – but sacred, of value, of infinite value. Imagine if we ate, drank, moved, worked and recreated in the knowledge and respect of our sacredness. Not to be fit or pert in any one else’s eyes but because we know that in God’s eyes we are sacred.
The flesh of those we love is sacred. Easier to accept. At least when our love is new born or new to us. But a little more difficult to grow so very familiar with aging failing flesh and to still see them as sacred.
And more difficult still the flesh of strangers, the flesh of the ill and injured, the flesh of those who do not care for themselves. To see as sacred what is inconvenient, what is demanding and often ungrateful or unrewarding. To see the leper and the drunk and the dying as sacred. To see that the enemy is sacred.
And to see beyond, beneath the preening of young things and anxious things the sacredness of flesh that is neither beautiful or dull but simply is the dwelling place of God’s breath. To relate to the striving and straining as sacred who have nothing to prove to us and no need to fear our judgement.
And our fellow creatures and our very planet desperately need us to see the flesh on which we live and move and have our being as sacred, as having value beyond our convenience and use.
There is no end to what Christmas means when we grasp, or even glimpse, that in the infant Jesus, God became flesh and all is different because of this. As different as we allow, as different as we recognise, as different as we enact. And if we do not see in the infant Jesus the sacredness of ourselves, our neighbours and our enemies then we might just as well sing another carol and go home. And another Christmas will have passed us by. The gift of Christmas given to us left unopened.
Or we could sing another carol and go home and live a little more joyously, courageously, hopefully because we have glimpsed that in Christ, the Word made flesh, we are all loved and found sacred by God.
May the gift of love open us and be opened to us, this day and every day this year. Amen.