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Flesh of my flesh

by davesandel on January 1st, 2012

John 1:1-3, 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.

During his sermon at this year’s Christmas Eve service Father Alan, the rector, remembered a winter in South Dakota.  While his parents were in Bolivia on a mission, he and his brother spent the year with Mennonite relatives.  They were farmers.  The days were short.  On Christmas Eve they braved a cold wind to feed the cows and sheep and hogs, break the ice on the water tanks, and “muck” the barn.

After a simple meal everyone got dressed for church, men and boys in black suits and white shirts.  The church was new built from brick and wood by the men in the congregation. Christmas gospel and carols rang out over shiny pews.  The community was glad to be together on Christmas Eve.  They were reluctant to go back out into the cold.

In spite of Christmas candles and savory stew, the family farmhouse never quite gave up the faint smell of muck.  Fourteen year old Alan piled with his brother under a mound of quilts in the unheated upstairs, but then he just laid in bed.  Something was missing at the church service.  He couldn’t sleep.  Finally he pulled on his clothes, overcoat and frozen boots and walked through the dark cold wind to the barn.  The cows were sleeping.  And he smelled the muck.  Strange though it was, the smell shaped the stories and songs of the night and brought young Alan the peace and closure he had been longing for.

Ronald Rolheiser writes, “The English word “incarnation” takes its root in the Latin word carnus, meaning physical flesh.  There is nothing spiritual about this word.  It emphasizes the body raw, brute, physical” (Holy Longing, p. 78).  God was born into a barn full of animals, full of “muck”.  Alan felt his oneness with God in the barn, not in the pew.  Without the smell, the story of Jesus just wasn’t real for him.

This same reality, raw, brute, and physical, applies to the whole Body of Christ.  We don’t float above it in a spiritual ether.  The touch of God brings us down to earth, gets our hands dirty with whatever needs to be done.  It’s for each other that we walk through the wind and dark toward the warm light and very earthy smell of a new year. God waits within for us to find Him.  He is getting his hands dirty too.

God taught Moses to pray, “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

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