When you think about it, it was an outrageous act on God’s part to become human, to become flesh, to become frail. It was an outrageous act to be born at all, especially under those circumstances: no room, no privacy, no marriage. Mary and Joseph were surrounded by the kinds of chaos that most of us do all within our power to tame or control or avoid.
In our culture, we continue to fear the things of the flesh or at least to keep at arm’s length some of the realities of fleshly life. The culture does not approve of unwanted hair, unwanted odors, or unwanted signs of aging. If by some chance and despite our best efforts, our humanity should somehow leak through, there are medications to control such emergencies. Despite all of our remedies, most of us know that our control is very limited. Or as W.H. Auden says, “We who must die demand a miracle.”
Yet, as my mother always reminded, “be careful what you pray for.” For this is not the miracle we would have designed. We would have figured out some way to be saved from this flesh, not joined in it. But the outrageous miracle of Christmas is just that. We are met in the flesh. We are known, joined, partnered and loved in the flesh. We are not saved from what scares us the most. We are met there. The gift is not absolute control over our lives. Rather we are joined in those places where we have no control.
The miracle of Christmas is God in the flesh. An outrageous act to be sure, because in joining us in the fullness of our humanity, our lives are made holy once and for all.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes:
It takes a lot of courage to be a human being, but if Jesus was who he said he was, the bridge will hold. Believing it will not put us in charge, or get us what we want or even save us from all harm, but believing in him, we may gradually lose our fear of our lives. Whatever the human condition we find ourselves in, we may finally learn to live it, maybe even to love it, if only because we believe that Jesus lives and loves it too.
The Preaching Life, Cowley Publications, 1993, page 94
‘This was the moment when Before
Turned into After …’
from BC:AD by U.A Fanthorpe