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God with Us

Advent is my favorite part of the liturgical year.  I love the hymns, the candles, and the general atmosphere of “good cheer.”  But what I love most is the reason-for-the-season: the birth of Jesus.

Yesterday marked the first Sunday of Advent, and what I was most struck by during the sermon was a discussion of the names of Jesus we are given in scripture.  There are many, but Matthew begins his gospel with the most important two: Jesus the Messiah and Immanuel, which means God with us. These names represent the good news Matthew was writing to share.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).      ~ Matthew 1:23 TNIV

The fundamental basis of Holistic Body Theology is our identity in Christ, who we are as the children of God.  We receive our identity because of two theological truths: imago Dei and the incarnation of Christ.

We are only who we are because of who Christ is. We are only who we are because of what Christ has done for us — not only the death and resurrection of Christ but also the birth and life of Christ.  Because God chose to come to us — physically, humbly, weakly, fleshly –, we have the opportunity to receive the gift of adoption into the family of God.

Advent is the perfect time to remind ourselves of what God has done for us — and to look forward to the continued activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So this advent season, take the opportunity to dwell on just what it means to anticipate the coming of Christ into the world.  Consider Henri Nouwen’s words in The Genesee Diary:

The expectation of Advent is anchored in the event of God’s incarnation.  The more I come in touch with what happened in the past, the more I come in touch with what is to come.  The Gospel not only reminds me of what took place but also of what will take place.  In the contemplation of Christ’s first coming, I can discover the signs of his second coming.  By looking back in meditation, I can look forward in expectation.  By reflection, I can project; by conserving the memory of Christ’s birth, I can progress to the fulfillment of his kingdom….

I pray that Advent will offer me the opportunity to deepen my memory of God’s great deeds in time and will set me free to look forward with courage to the fulfillment of time by him who came and is still to come.

Happy Advent, lovely readers!  May this season be full of joyful anticipation of connection with the God who created us and called us by name into the gracious, merciful, and loving family of God.

Joy to the World

One of my favorite classes in seminary was Storytelling.  One particular assignment we had for that class was to make up a story based on the painting handed to us.  The painting I was given was a picture of the Nativity scene.  Here’s the story I told as inspired by that scene.

My best friend Mary got married two and a half years ago, and about five weeks ago, she had a baby.  Her husband left me a voicemail message in the middle of the night, and when I woke up in the morning and listened to the message, he just yelled, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!”  Now, I was a little frustrated with her because she is supposed to be my best friend and didn’t even tell me she was pregnant.  We’ve fallen a little out of touch since I moved across the country, but I still expected to know about the milestones in her life.

I waited a few days to give them time to adjust to being new parents and then gave her a call back to get the whole scoop.  We’ve always told each other all the gory details about everything, so I asked her what it was like having a baby. “How did it happen?” I asked.  “Where were you when your water broke?  What hospital did you go to?  Tell me everything!”

I could hear the fatigue thick in her voice as she tried to answer my questions.  Finally, she said, “You know, I’m so tired right now I can’t think of anything to tell you.  I just remember this one moment.  I had been pushing and screaming and screaming and pushing, and when she came out, before they cleaned her off or cut the cord or anything, the doctors just propped her up on my chest.  In that moment, I could have done it again six times over.  I was just so overwhelmed with emotion for my little baby.”

By this time, I was going to be late for my next class, and I knew she needed to take a nap while the baby was sleeping. “Well, I’ll talk to you later,” I said. I was about to hang up when I remembered my the most important question.

“Oh by the way, what’s your baby’s name?” I asked.

And she said, “Joy.”

 The angel said to them, I bring you good news of great joy for all people.  Today a baby has been born to you, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  (Luke 2)

The Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1)

As we prepare for Christmas during this Advent season, let’s not lose sight of the very real physicality of the Emmanuel–God with us.  This is the very basis of body theology.

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