Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article for December, 2014:
December 25th is known to most people in our country as Christmas Day, but to the liturgical world it has been known since the middle of the fourth century as “The Feast of the Incarnation.” Incarnation has its roots in a Latin word (incarnāre – to make flesh) and refers to the presence of God made known in bodily form. The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation grows out of Bible passages like St. John 1:14, from the Gospel for December 25th: “And the Word became flesh, and lived among us…”
The Doctrine of the Incarnation has a rich history among Christians that includes exploring what it means to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the second person of the Holy Trinity, and in him we experience the fullness of God. It also holds that God continues to be present — incarnate, if you will — through the church. As the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which he is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which he is to bless us now.”
An incarnational theology professes that God becomes truly present through the faith, love, compassion and integrity of people like you and me.
Much has been said lately about young people who have given up on the church, and in some cases have given up on the faith. Kenda Creasy Dean, in her 2010 book “Almost Christian,” contends that this is the case, in large part, because they have encountered too many church people who are almost (but not quite) Christian; people who have adopted the language and some of the cultural affects of Christianity, but whose lives don’t bear signs of God’s presence. In other words, many young people have given up on the church and/or the faith, in part, because they haven’t seen God incarnate in us.
During the season of Advent we pray for the coming of Christ among us. Perhaps this year we might pray especially that Christ would become incarnate both among us (in word and Sacrament) and through us (as we are transformed to be God’s faithful people).
We pray this not, as Luther would remind us, in order to become worthy of God’s love and grace. This is a given: the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth assures us of this. We pray this, instead, in hopes that our lives might bear a genuine witness to the presence of Christ in this world. That our young people might see in us nothing less than the power of God. That in our faith, love, compassion and integrity, others might discover and come to believe that God is real, God is present, God is powerful and God is making a difference.
An incarnational theology: one that invites us into the depth of the Christmas season, and one that empowers us for lives of faithful witness. This is the gift of God, incarnate in Christ Jesus.
In Christ, Pastor Dave