Christmas is about Incarnation: God becoming tangible.
Because God has become flesh and now dwells among us, we can rest assured that God knows us! He’s “been there done that”, as the saying goes.
God Has Felt…
God has felt tired, hungry and thirsty. He’s been tempted, roused to anger, tears and laughter. He wore toga-pajamas (a holy onesie?) and learned to walk and talk and go potty, just like every other human child.
Some days he loved Hebrew school and other days he wished he didn’t have to go. He may have had zits. The girl down the street may have had a crush on him (and visa versa?!). Maybe he sometimes snored or had bad breath or a runny nose (because that’s not a sin.) Perhaps, he loved the smell of fresh baked bread and the taste of a warm merlot and the satisfying feeling of sitting with friends after a wonderful meal shared together.
Divinity in Skin: A Fundamental
It might seem sacrilegious to imagine God this way: hanging out with us in the neighborhood, Divinity in skin. The reality of God as a real; complete, totally human being is fundamental to the Christian faith.
To be a Christian is to believe it. For if God were not truly human—truly tangible in flesh and blood, tasting, smelling, touching, seeing—then we are not truly redeemed. But He was!
God knows. God knows. Just pause for a moment and think: what’s important for you to know that God knows? How might knowing God knows, comfort, challenge, intrigue your neighbors?
Christmas invites us to be known by God in all of our frailty, fallibility, and pain, to be known intimately and authentically. God lives with us and loves us just the same.
We Beheld his Glory
Scripture teaches that we have beheld God’s glory. No longer is God’s glory confined to the Holy of Holies or the mountain top or the veiled face of Moses. In Jesus, God’s glory is now on display for all to experience. It’s tangible.
Not only are we assured that God knows, but also that God can be known! In Christ, ‘holiness’ becomes humanness; so humanness touches godliness. In Jesus, Divine and human, eternal and finite, sacred and secular come together. And we come face-to–face with God—not just a good teacher; or a great prophet, or a miracle worker but face to face with the holy one, the Savior of the world.
Andrew ran to tell Simon, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). He turns water into wine! The blind see! The lame walk! The captives are set free!” The Samaritan woman called out, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” (John 4:29) The centurion at the foot of the cross, exclaimed, “Truly this man was God’s Son” (Matthew 27:54). Peter declared, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Through Jesus we discover the character and care of God. His glory becomes tangible. We touch it, not just in the radiant splendor of the Transfiguration or the miraculous raising of the four-day-dead Lazarus or the Hosanna parade of Palm Sunday. We touch God’s glory in the baseness of a barn birth, in the compassion of an uneducated, uncouth Nazarene living among us.
Ironically most fully, in His ultimate humility, a crucifixion on Skull Hill. As Jesus prepares to be captured and martyred, he says, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. As seen in John 12:23, his glory comes in the gory. As John says in John 1:14, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
We beheld His glory!
God’s Tangible Glory Today
Beholding isn’t the end of the flesh and glory story. In fact, the flesh and glory story doesn’t end with Christmas or even with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. It continues in the lives, in the flesh and blood lives of those who sound, look, feel and smell like Him.
Tangibility is more than looking on from a distance. Those who have recognized God’s glory are God’s glory in the flesh now. If they are flesh and blood dwelling in the neighborhood as one of the neighborhood.
If, however, we remain, as many do, simply impressed at God in the flesh among us, then we are mere observers of the good news. At best, we are admirers cheering on our hero or rock star when he’s in town. God didn’t come in the flesh, to live and die and rise again so that we could cheer once a year and go on with our lives as if His tangibility didn’t change anything. It changed everything!
The whole point of His coming in the flesh to dwell among was to empower us to be His flesh and glory story. We are the tangible Christmas that others need to see and touch, hear and smell.
We who receive the good news of great joy, are the good news of great joy. We are the tangible Kingdom. Christmas not only proclaims the wonder and astonishment of the great I Am becoming one of us, it declares equally astonishing news: we are to be like God. We are to be filled with God, the light in the darkness, the glory in the gory, the empathy in the agony, the eternal in the earthly. As Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:12, the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
How We Become Tangible
In this sin-sick, war-torn, ambiguous world, what does it mean for you and me to be tangible? According to the Encarta dictionary, tangibility means:
a) being able to be touched or perceived through the sense of touch;
b) capable of being understood and evaluated, and therefore regarded as real;
c) capable of being given a physical existence.
For the Church, this means leaving our places of spiritual comfort to be the “incarnate” presence of Christ in the world. Like Jesus, who hung out for 30 years developing ‘street cred’ without ever “launching” his church, becoming tangible means “living among.”
Being incarnational now means the same thing it did 2000 years ago: being one of, in the flesh, dwelling among, full of grace and truth because we are full of Him.
Renovaré affirms the discipline of being incarnational with this commitment: “By God’s grace, I will joyfully seek to show forth the presence of God in all that I say, in all that I do, in all that I am.”
A Prayer for Faithful Presence
May people see, hear, smell and touch the Kingdom in us, the Word in the flesh – the glory shining, salting, scenting, loving, full of grace and truth– tangible by our faithful presence in the midst.
Ancient of Days, Tangible God, like us, you had a beginning as a child.
How strange and wonderful that reality is.
Infinite God, you weren’t ashamed to take on our frail and finite humanity.
Forgive us for the times we skirt taking on the frail and finite humanity of those to whom you have sent us.
Forgive us when we try to be, or pretend to be, more spiritual than we are. What earthly good is that?
Teach us, equip us, empower us to live among, to dwell with, to love as we have been loved by You. May we love like You, real flesh and blood.
We praise You, King of Kings, and give you all glory, laud and honor!
Astonish us anew with the wonder of Your incarnation, Divinity in skin.
And help us to be tangible Christmas for those around us this holiday season.
For You have moved into the neighborhood
Our Savior and Lord Jesus,
The Kingdom of God has come near!
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