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What is body theology? a miniseries

This week, let’s take a little step back and consider more about just what body theology is, how it has been defined and how we define it here at HBTB.

Read Holistic Body Theology Blog’s definition of body theology.

Below is an excerpt from Body Theology by James B. Nelson.  Take some time to read and digest what he says about the relation between our human bodies and the incarnation of Christ.

What, then, is body theology? It is nothing more, nothing less than our attempts to reflect on bodily experience as revelatory of God….Theologically, [embodiment] means Jesus as the Christ, the expected and anointed one.  Through the lens of this paradigmatic embodiment of God, however, Christians can see other incarnations: the christic reality expressed in other human beings in their God-bearing relatedness.  Indeed, the central purpose of Christology…is not affirmations about Jesus as the Christ. Rather, affirmations about Jesus are in the service of revealing God’s christic presence and activity in the world now.

…[T]he human body is language and a fundamental means of communication. We do not just use words. We are words.  This conviction underlies Christian incarnationalism. In Jesus Christ, God was present in a human being not for the first and only time, but in a radical way that has created a new definition of who we are.  In Christ we are redefined as body words of love, and such body life in us is the radical sign of God’s love for the world and of the divine immediacy in the world.

The time is upon us for recapturing the feeling for the bodily apprehension of God. When we do so, we will find ourselves not simply making religious pronouncements about the bodily life; we will enter theologically more deeply into this experience, letting it speak of God to us, and of us to God. (emboldened emphases mine)

Thoughts? Questions? Reflections? Share in the comment box below.


The Compassionate Way (Part 1)

We’re coming to the end of Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison.

Last week we looked at what it means to live a Compassionate Life through voluntary displacement.  We established that displacement is not something to be achieved but to be recognized and that we can only recognize displacement within the community of God and when attentive to the loving voice of God in our daily lives.

But what does it look like to live a life of compassion through voluntary displacement?

Part Three: The Compassionate Way

Now the authors take their argument into the practical action of our daily lives.  What does a compassionate life look like? In a word: discipline.

In the Christian life, discipline is the human effort to unveil what has been covered, to bring to the foreground what has remained hidden, and to put on the lamp stand what has been kept under a basket. It is like raking away the leaves that cover the pathways in the garden of our soul. Discipline enables the revelation of God’s divine Spirit in us. (88)

Learning to listen to the loving voice of God — and heed God’s unique call on our individual lives — is a practice that requires the discipline of patience.

Discipline is the effort to avoid deafness and to become sensitive to the sound of the voice that calls us by a new name and invites us to a new life in discipleship…The compassionate way is the patient way. Patience is the discipline of compassion. (89)

This is what Eugene Peterson would call A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  Compassion isn’t something we can obtain through an easy three-step formula or a crash course. Compassion is a lifestyle choice, one that takes our entire lives to learn to live out effectively.  In a world of quick fixes and instant gratification, the last thing we are drawn to is the discipline of patience.  God’s call to the compassionate life is radically counter-cultural.  Before we can hope to act compassionately toward those who are hurt by competition, we have to learn to live a life marked by patience.

But this patience practice is not one of passive existence but passionate action:

Patience means to enter actively into the thick of life and to fully bear the suffering within and around us….In short, patience is a willingness to be influenced even when this requires giving up control and entering into unknown territory. (91)

[T]he New Testament presents the discipline of patience as the way to a life of discipleship which makes us living signs of God’s compassionate presence in the world. (93)

We aren’t, by nature or by culture, very patient people.  Especially Americans who are used to keeping careful track of time and valuing punctuality and efficiency above all — we are trained to push and rush and make deadlines and fill every moment of our time with busy productivity to earn and to accomplish and to succeed and to finish first.  But as Christians, we are invited into a very different experience of time with a paradoxical definition of productivity and accomplishment:

The discipline of patience is the concentrated effort to let the new time into which we are led by Christ determine our perceptions and decisions. (93)

In God’s management of time, patience is productive:

[Patience] is the experience of the moment as full, rich, and pregnant. (96)

As long as we are the slaves of the clock and the calendar, our time remains empty and nothing really happens. Thus, we miss the moment of grace and salvation…. [T]hrough patience we can live in the fullness of time and invite others to share in it. (98)

[W]e are constantly preoccupied with our free evening, free weekend, or free month and lose the capacity to enjoy the people we live and work with day in and day out. (99)

The Compassionate Way calls us to learn to pay attention to life around us.  When our lives are defined by the discipline of patience, we find more opportunities to hear God in the daily movements and activities of our lives and answer our unique call to voluntary displacement we might have missed in our rush from one busy productivity to another.

Our culture has done us a genuine disservice in this area, which is why developing cultural discernment is so important to body theology. When we allow culture to dictate our values and assumptions, the lens through which we view the world is skewed toward the value of competition.  Even within Christian culture, our lenses could use a good cleaning:

[W]e have accepted the idea that “doing things” is more important than prayer and have come to think of prayer as something for times when there is nothing urgent to do. (101)

Prayer is an expression of the discipline of patience and is the medium through which we hear the loving voice of God and experience intimate relationship with God.  Rather than a last resort or a convenient time-filler, prayer

as a discipline that strengthens and deepens discipleship, is the effort to remove everything that might prevent the Spirit of God, given to us by Jesus Christ, from speaking freely to us and in us…we liberate the Spirit of God from entanglement in our impatient impulses…[and] allow God’s Spirit to move freely. (102-3)

[P]rayer as a disciple of patience is the human effort to allow the Holy Spirit to do re-creating work in us…It involves the constant choice not to run from the present moment…the determination to listen carefully to people and events so as to discern the movements of the Spirit…the ongoing struggle to prevent our minds and hearts from becoming cluttered with the many distractions that clamour for our attention…[and] the decision to set aside time every day to be alone with God and listen to the Spirit. (104)

Prayer is hard work, but it is also as simple as sitting (or standing, or dancing, or running) with our bodies, minds, and hearts focused on attending to the Holy Spirit — the loving voice of God.  Prayer as the mark of the compassionate life is a truly counter-cultural practice because it requires the most difficult voluntary displacement of all: prayer displaces our own voices, desires, and actions with the voice, desire, and call to action of God:

To listen patiently to the voice of the Spirit in prayer is a radical displacement. (105)

We cannot hope to be effective as the Mother Theresas of the world if we cannot first achieve this inner displacement through patient, disciplined prayer.  We cannot act — rightly, timely, compassionately — if we have not first established a lifestyle of prayerful listening to the loving voice of God. Only through prayer are our actions molded to the compassionate way:

[Prayer is] a growing intimacy with God [that] deepens our sense of responsibility for others…requires deep and strong patience…[allows us to] discover a limitless space into which we can welcome all the people of the world…[and] is the very beat of a compassionate heart. (107)

To be concluded on Wednesday!

The Compassionate Life (Part 1)

We’re making our way through Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison.  Last week, we looked at Part One: The Compassionate God.  If you haven’t read last week’s posts, I highly recommend starting there.  This week, we’re in Part Two: The Compassionate Life.

As a reminder, last week we learned the definition of compassion (emphasis mine):

To be compassionate then means to be kind and gentle to those who get hurt by competition. (6)

Part Two: The Compassionate Life

In Part One, we learned that our ability to understand and give compassion is only possible because we have already experienced the compassion of God in our lives and been given the example of compassion in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Now, in Part Two, the authors’ premise is that living a truly compassionate life can only happen through and because of our participation in Christian community:

Compassion is not an individual character trait, a personal attitude, or a special talent, but a way of living together. (47)

A compassionate life is a life in which fellowship with Christ reveals itself in a new fellowship among those who follow him. (48)

Relationship with Christ is relationship with our brothers and sisters. This is most powerfully expressed by Paul when he calls the Christian community the body of Christ. (49)

This is why body theology is so important.  We cannot truly experience the life we are called to experience in God if we are not connected to the community of God.  We do not have a holistic body theology if we do not have both the body of CHRIST and the BODY of Christ — participation in the community of God and the action of service in the world.

The authors are very clear as to why we need the community of God in order to live a compassionate life:

As a community we can transcend our individual limitations and become a concrete realization of the self-emptying way of Christ….Left to ourselves, we might easily begin to idolize our particular form or style of ministry and so turn our service into a personal hobby.  But when we come together regularly to listen to the word of God and the presence of God in our midst, we stay alert to the guiding voice and move away from the comfortable places to unknown territories. (56)

It’s easy to become comfortable.  We are creatures of habit and sameness and whatever-is-easiest, especially those of us living in the First World where materialism and consumer culture define our sense of security and success. But God calls us to a radically counter-cultural paradigm shift that the authors call “voluntary displacement,” the individual choice to move ourselves out of what is comfortable and familiar in order to answer the unique call of God in each of our lives.

When we are willing to make this shift, we are placing ourselves in a position to be compassionate:

Voluntary displacement leads us to the existential recognition of our inner brokenness and thus brings us to a deeper solidarity with the brokenness of our fellow human beings. (62)

We have the most excellent example of voluntary displacement in the person of Jesus Christ, who made the choice to move out of what was comfortable and familiar in order to answer the unique call of God:

The mystery of the incarnation is that God did not remain in the place that we consider proper for God but moved to the condition of a suffering human being…In the life of Jesus, we see how  this divine displacement becomes visible in a human story…It is in following our displaced Lord that the Christian community is formed. (62-3)

This is why body theology begins with the incarnation of God.  Without the choice God made to become human flesh and live among us, we would have no example to follow and no reason to follow that example.  God chose to become like us, to become one of us, to become the same as we are so that we could experience the compassion of God in our individual lives.  In the same way, we are called:

Voluntary displacement leads to compassionate living precisely because it moves us from positions of distinction to positions of sameness, from being in special places to  being everywhere. (64)

When we’re in the position of sameness and everywhere, competition loses its ability to separate us.  When we relate to one another though the compassion of God, we cannot help but live compassionate lives — lives defined by kindness and gentleness to those who get hurt by competition.  We no longer have to struggle and fight to keep what we believe is rightfully ours or worry that sharing power might lead to losing what we have worked so hard to gain.

Because body theology begins with the incarnation, it ends with our own voluntary displacement into the lives of others through service as the BODY of Christ in the world.  God’s choice and our choices bring our theology full circle and enable us to discover and experience the compassionate call of God in our minds, souls, and bodies — both individually and corporately as the community of God:

Living in the world by hiddenness and compassion unites us because it allows us to discover the world in the center of our being…displacement makes it possible to be in the world without being of it. (68)

This is what Richard Niebuhr would call Christ Transforming CultureRather than hiding from the world or fighting against it, we can embrace those around us with compassion and in doing so create space for all of us together to experience the redeeming and transformative power of God.

We’ll continue our journey through Part Two on Wednesday.

The Compassionate God


This week, we are reading through Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison.

Introduction & Part One: The Compassionate God

To be compassionate then means to be kind and gentle to those who get hurt by competition. (6)

But being compassionate toward others, especially the poor and marginalized to whom competition does the most harm, does not come naturally. We do not like to be around others’ pain and suffering, and we certainly do not like to give up anything we consider ours for the benefit of someone else — even in the name of fairness and justice, much less forgiveness and compassion.

Fortunately, we are not governed by our own desires and fears but by the movement of God in our lives:

God’s own compassion constitutes the basis and source of our compassion….[I]t is only in discipleship that we can begin to understand the call to be compassionate as our loving God is compassionate….[I]t is through these disciplines [of prayer and action], which guide our relationships with God and our fellow human beings, that God’s compassion can manifest itself. (8)

Their central argument is that Christians — as human beings who are by our very nature threatened by the idea of showing compassion to others (and thereby losing competition and identity) — are enabled to share in God’s compassion through the new identity we have been given as a result of our experience of the compassion of God in our lives through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This means the compassion that moves us to “be kind and gentle to those who get hurt by competition” does not come from our own nature; it comes from God.

It also comes from the example of a God who would make himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likenessBecause of the humble incarnation of Christ, the example of Jesus’ life, the choice to be obedient to death, and the miracle of the resurrection, we are able to experience the compassion of God for ourselves:

Jesus who is divine lives our broken humanity not as a curse…, but as a blessing. His divine compassion makes it possible for us to face our sinful selves, because it transforms our broken human condition from a cause of despair into a source of hope. (15)

The mystery of God’s love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. (16)

Once we have experienced God’s compassion in our own lives, we are transformed by this new-found grace and freedom to live into the new identity we are given as children of God. Then we are able to follow the example of Jesus. Indeed, we are called to do so:

[O]nce we see that Jesus reveals to us, in his radically downward pull, the compassionate nature of God, we begin to understand that to follow Jesus is to participate in the ongoing self-revelation of God. (27)

Personally, this is where I get stuck.  I can agree all day that Jesus taught us to be servants and showed us by example how to live radically counter-cultural lives that defy competition in favor of compassion and justice for the poor and marginalized.

But what does that look like in my life?  Am I missing out on the will of God by not living in Calcutta or joining Shane Claiborne’s intentional community? What does it mean to be radically counter-cultural?

Radical servanthood is not an enterprise in which we try to surround ourselves with as much misery as possible, but a joyful way of life in which our eyes are opened to the vision of the true God who chose to be revealed in servanthood….[S]ervice is an expression of the search for God. (29)

That’s a beautiful line: a joyful way of life in which our eyes are opened to the vision of the true God who chose to be revealed in servanthood.

It’s not about finding the most misery.  We don’t all have to be Mother Theresa to be doing God’s compassionate work in the world.  It’s about a radical paradigm shift.  It’s about seeing with new eyes, eyes opened to who God is through service.

So how do we know what we are called to do in the world?  How do we know if we are Mother Theresas or mothers of three? Our wise authors remind us that it’s much simpler than we imagine:

The obedience of Jesus is hearing God’s loving word and responding to it. (34)

We are poor listeners because we are afraid that there is something other than love in God….[Jesus] came to include us in his divine obedience. He wanted to lead us to God so that we could enjoy the same intimacy he did. (38)

God is all about relationship.  God is all about intimacy.  When we relate to God intimately, we cannot help but see the world with new eyes.  We cannot help but be moved by compassion.  We cannot help but pray and act — those disciplines that guide our relationships with God and others.

On Wednesday, we’ll look at Part Two: The Compassionate Life.


Lessons Learned in Prison — Part 3

This week, we’ve been honoring Bonhoeffer‘s birthday by taking a tour of some of his writings to discover what he teaches about community.  In addition to Jesus as mediator and discipleship, let’s look at the third requirement for community.

3) Responsibility and deputyship (participation in the incarnation)

Bonhoeffer says that we as Christians should be in community because Christ exemplified it for us every day he walked on earth, especially in the way he interacted with his disciples: “In bearing with men God maintained fellowship with them.”  We are God’s deputies here on earth, participating in the incarnation of Christ.  If Christ is our example of community life, how much more are sacrifice and service to be the themes of our interaction with community members on a daily basis?  “If you reject God’s commanding word,” Bonhoeffer warns, “you will not receive God’s gracious word.  How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point?”

Repeatedly, Bonhoeffer stresses the fact that community is about dying to self.  In agreeing to participate in the incarnation by becoming a disciple and taking on the responsibility of entering into the lives of others, we are freed to suffer—“The cross is not the terrible end of a pious, happy life.  Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ.  Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death”—and freed to forgive—“Jesus’ call to bear the cross places all who follow him in the community of forgiveness of sins.  Forgiving sins is the Christ-suffering required of his disciples…of all Christians.”

When we give up the claim to our own rights, we are freed to turn our attention and concern to the rights of others.  This freedom is the deputyship Bonhoeffer charges to each Christian; it is an ethic of relationship and community, the requirement of incarnational service for others.  In one of his prison letters, Bonhoeffer writes, “It’s remarkable how we think at such times about the people that we should not like to live without, and almost or entirely forget about ourselves.” 

Our human nature has been designed for community life.  It is a sacrifice to be in a position to love others rightly, but it is a sacrifice only because of our sinful nature, not because of our true natural inclination.  Dying to the self makes us able to live the life we have been designed for, which is why Bonhoeffer can create an ethic that requires our participation in the lives of those around us.

Regardless of the environment in which we live, community living is still a responsibility and expectation of every disciple. Bonhoeffer asserts, “This principle [of deputyship] is not affected by the extent of the responsibility assumed, whether it be for a single human being, for a community or for whole groups of communities….[E]ven the solitary lives as a deputy, and indeed quite especially so, for his life is lived in deputyship for man as man, for mankind as a whole.”

Whether we’re in a position to live intentionally among other Christians, or whether we find ourselves in a position of being a solitary light to the world, we are all called to participate in the incarnation of Jesus as the body of Christ in the world.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the challenges and benefits of being in community and what it means to be the body of Christ.

Lessons Learned in Prison — Part 2

Yesterday, we looked at the first requirement for community: Jesus as mediator.  Today, we’ll continue our tour through Bonhoeffer‘s writings about community.

2) Individual commitment (discipleship)

When Bonhoeffer writes, “The call to discipleship here has no other content than Jesus Christ himself, being bound to him, in community with him,” he means that discipleship is entering into community with Jesus Christ, participating in the cost of his grace through the incarnation.

As we looked at yesterday, Bonhoeffer builds his understanding of discipleship and the call of each individual Christian to live according to Christ around the sub-theme of Jesus as the mediator.  Jesus enters incarnationally into our lives and calls us to follow the example by entering incarnationally into the lives of our fellow Christians, with Christ as the mediator.  Every assertion Bonhoeffer makes stems from this central belief in the position of Christ in our lives.

Whether we are communicating with God—“Always there must be a second person, another, a member of the fellowship, the Body of Christ, indeed, Jesus Christ himself, praying with him, in order that the prayer of the individual may be true prayer”—or whether we are worshiping among fellow Christians—“It is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing, and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song”—everything we do is filtered through the incarnation of Christ.

Bonhoeffer returns again and again to this theme: “The image of Jesus Christ shapes the image of the disciples in daily community.”

As Bonhoeffer develops, in The Cost of Discipleship, his discussion of what it means to be a disciple of Christ–to answer the call to participate in the incarnation by obedience to that call–he stresses the need to come to Christ alone: “Each is called alone.  Each must follow alone.”  Discipleship is first and foremost individual. 

Bonhoeffer warns, “If you refuse to be alone (i.e. to worship, pray, meditate, and generally seek God on an individual basis) you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.”  Community life is designed to enhance and bolster the lives of Christians but not to serve as a substitute for finding all of our needs met in God alone.

However, most of us are not called into seclusion, either.  Bonhoeffer believed strongly in intentional Christian community and warns in Life Together, “If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject all of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.” We must deal only with Christ and through Christ, but Christ has entered incarnationally into our lives in order that we might live in right relationship to each other as well as to God.  As Bonhoeffer puts it, “Man is an indivisible whole, not only as an individual in his person and work but also as a member of the community of men and creatures in which he stands.”

In fact, community and individual discipleship are closely related in Bonhoeffer’s famous argument against cheap grace: “Cheap grace is…baptism [i.e. the symbol of individual commitment] without the discipline of community….Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.”

Bonhoeffer does not neglect to add that while it is the individual’s responsibility to live in community, it is also the responsibility of the community to impact positively the individual’s life.  “The right of the individual,” Bonhoeffer writes in Ethics, “is the power which upholds the right of the community, just as, conversely, it is the community that upholds and defends the right of the individual.”

Bonhoeffer warns that Christians must be aware of the health of the surrounding community, for when “a community hinders us from coming before Christ as a single individual, anytime a community lays claim to immediacy, it must be hated for Christ’s sake.”  Community is important and even essential to the Christian life, but it does not have the right to supersede the position of Christ as center and mediator for all disciples.

(Current heated debates surrounding certain celebrity pastors come to mind.)

Bonhoeffer repeats so that his readers cannot forget, “Discipleship is bound to the mediator, and wherever discipleship is rightly spoken of, there the mediator, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is intended.  Only the mediator, the God-human, can call to discipleship.”

Jesus calls individually; we answer individually and respond communally. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the third requirement of community: participation in the incarnation.

Lessons Learned in Prison — Part 1

 “We can never achieve this ‘wholeness’ simply by ourselves, but only together with others.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote these words while experiencing an intense lack of daily Christian community during his time in prison.  In honor of Bonhoeffer’s birthday this past  Saturday, I’ve decided to take you lovely readers on a tour this week of Life Together, The Cost of Discipleship, Ethics, and Letters and Papers from Prison to discover what Bonhoeffer had to say about what it means to live in community as the body of Christ.

Bonhoeffer has so much to say about community, but I’ve chosen to break down his requirements for healthy community life into three categories.  We’ll look at the first one today.

1) Jesus as the mediator

This sub-theme is prevalent throughout Bonhoeffer’s writings, so its importance to his understanding of community cannot be denied.  In Life Together, his manual for living in community, Bonhoeffer writes, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ”  and later reiterates, “Only in Jesus Christ are we one, only through him are we bound together.  To eternity he remains the one Mediator.”

In his book Discipleship, Bonhoeffer describes this concept in more detail: “But it is precisely this same mediator who…becomes the basis for entirely new community….He separates, but he also unites.  He cuts off every direct path to someone else, but he guides everyone following him to the new and the true way to the other person via the mediator.”

This concept of Jesus as mediator has a profound impact on the way we interact with others. Bonhoeffer writes that “everything should happen only through [Jesus].  He stands not only between me and God, he also stands between me and the world, between me and other people and things…between person and person, and between person and reality.”

The effort to continually invite Jesus to stand in our midst and mediate between us and whoever we are with has the opportunity to make us increasingly mindful of Jesus’ presence in our lives as we live among fellow Christians.  If Jesus mediates for us not only with God but also with people, then all the commands and requirements of a holy Christian life are made possible.

Suddenly, it is not the effort in our own power to intellectually strive for righteous living.  “This [realization],” as Bonhoeffer explains, “leads us away from any kind of abstract ethic and towards an ethic which is entirely concrete.”

Community is, then, the conscious invitation to Jesus to enter into our lives in this physical, tangible way and be the filter through which we live and experience life.  With Jesus standing between us and the world, we are able to guard our tongues and practice self-discipline because our words and actions must pass through Jesus to get to the world.

Likewise, we are able to forgive, to give up our own rights, and to suffer injustice because the words and actions of the world must pass through Jesus to get to us.  What a different way of experiencing life!

Bonhoeffer notes, “The way to one’s neighbor leads only through Christ.  That is why intercession is the most promising way to another person, and common prayer in Christ’s name is the most genuine community.”  When we are interacting with each other through Christ, we are in community the way Jesus exemplified when he came to live among us.

Truly this intentional living in community through Jesus is the way to understand the freedom and abundance of life that Jesus arrived in human flesh to make possible for us.  Truly this is how peace, grace, mercy, and agape-love are made manifest on earth.  As Bonhoeffer stresses, “Jesus Christ alone is our unity.”

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the second category: discipleship.

Jim Wallis on Christmas and the Incarnation

As we draw closer to the 25th, let’s wait with joyful expectation for the “celebration of the Incarnation.”

Regardless of your opinion of Fox News or what Wallis calls “civil religion,” I really like the way he describes the Incarnation as the real point of Christmas.  Here’s an excerpt:

What is Christmas? It is the celebration of the Incarnation, God’s becoming flesh — human — and entering into history in the form of a vulnerable baby born to a poor, teenage mother in a dirty animal stall. Simply amazing. That Mary was homeless at the time, a member of a people oppressed by the imperial power of an occupied country whose local political leader, Herod, was so threatened by the baby’s birth that he killed countless children in a vain attempt to destroy the Christ child, all adds compelling historical and political context to the Advent season.

The theological claim that sets Christianity apart from any other faith tradition is the Incarnation. God has come into the world to save us. God became like us to bring us back to God and show us what it means to be truly human.

That is the meaning of the Incarnation. That is the reason for the season.

In Jesus Christ, God hits the streets.

It is theologically and spiritually significant that the Incarnation came to our poorest streets. That Jesus was born poor, later announces his mission at Nazareth as “bringing good news to the poor,” and finally tells us that how we treat “the least of these” is his measure of how we treat him and how he will judge us as the Son of God, radically defines the social context and meaning of the Incarnation of God in Christ. And it clearly reveals the real meaning of Christmas.

The other explicit message of the Incarnation is that Jesus the Christ’s arrival will mean “peace on earth, good will toward men.” He is “the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.” Jesus later calls on his disciples to turn the other cheek, practice humility, walk the extra mile, put away their swords, love their neighbors — and even their enemies — and says that in his kingdom, it is the peacemakers who will be called the children of God. Christ will end our warring ways, bringing reconciliation to God and to one another.

(Read the full article here.) Wallis has it right when he highlights Jesus’ emphasis on caring for the poor and being peacemakers.  This is why I believe body theology is about more than just the way we see our bodies or think about and experience our sexuality.  Jesus did not “become flesh” just to be human but to do–to redeem and bring to completion all that we as “bodyselves” were created to be and do.  Body theology is about who Jesus is, who we are as God’s family, and how we should respond because of who Jesus is and who we are.  Body theology is about both identity and activity.  Christmas is a time to remember Jesus’ identity as divine-becoming-human.  Hearing this good news, how will you respond?

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