The Rev. Leslie Mazzacano
Trinity Episcopal Church
Moorestown, New Jersey
December 30, 2018
Hallelujah! How good it is to sing praises to our God! How pleasant it is to honor him with praise! AMEN
The fullest statement of the mystery of the Incarnation is found in the poetic language of the Prologue to John’s Gospel, in which the author affirms that the Word, Logos, became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.
Whereas the infancy narratives of Luke and Matthew focus on the earthly origins of Jesus. John is concerned with the cosmic dimension of the preexistent Word outside of human time and place. In the Hebrew tradition, the distinct reality of the spoken word is a dynamic entity, with the truth and power of that word rooted in the personality of the one who utters it. Ultimately, this word confers the reality that it signifies.
The first five verses of this passage we just heard focus on the relationship of the Word and creation. God brought order out of chaos and nothingness by simply speaking things into existence. The opening words, “In the beginning,” recall Genesis 1:1 as well as the tradition that Wisdom was present with God at creation.
Jesus as the Logos existed in the beginning with God the Father and was active in creation. Through him all things came into being. Here we see the Second Person of the Trinity preeminent before created time. The Word is the source of light and life for the world. “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” Thus, creation itself is affirmed as good, and we see the connection between creation and salvation.
So, what does this all mean to us on this Sunday after Christmas Day?
Brother Keith Nelson from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist states. “The prologue of John’s gospel positively resists sense and logic and points us directly to the domain of our senses, our intuition, and our desire to look, to touch, to believe. The bond of warmth and genuine love with God will make itself known by making itself felt: in physical sensations that enfold us or catch us unaware. It will erupt in emotions that we cannot hide or control. It will whisper across the surface of awareness in intuitions that live in the gut as much as in the mind.”
I am reading a book titled: Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practice in Everyday Life, written by Trish Harrison Warren. In chapter 3 titled “brushing teeth, standing, kneeling, bowing, and living in a body, “she gives us some insight about how our bodies are important in our faith. She writes: “we can believe that the cumulative hours and years spent on the incessant care of our bodies are meaningless, and an insignificant necessity on the way to the important parts of our day. But in orthodox Christianity, our bodies matter profoundly.”
She continues, “Christians are often accused of two wrong-headed views of the body. One is that we ignore the body in favor of a disembodied, spirits-floating-on-clouds spirituality. The other is that we are obsessed with bodies, focusing all our attention on policing sexual conduct and denigrating the body as a dirty source of evil. In certain communities at certain moments in history, these accusations may have been legitimate. But the Christianity we find in Scripture values and honors the body.
In the Scriptures we find that the body is not incidental to our faith, but integral to our worship. We were made to be embodied—to experience life, pleasure, and limits in our bodies. When Jesus redeems us, that redemption occurs in our bodies. And when we die, we will not float away to heaven and leave our bodies behind but will experience the resurrection of our bodies. Christ himself appeared after his resurrection in a mysteriously changed-but-fleshy, eating and drinking body.”
In the incarnation, God entered not just the beauty and wonder of embodiment but also its shame. Jesus might have had bad breath, he may have wet the bed, his nose may have been lumpy or his teeth crooked. He smelled and he covered his nakedness.
But because of the embodied life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we who are in Christ are “clothed in Christ.” We Christians believe in a God who, by becoming human, embraced human embodiment in fullness, right down to the toenails.
We have been told that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t see that we will continue to see our bodies primarily as a tool for meeting our needs and desires. If we don’t learn to live the Christian life as embodied beings, worshiping God and stewarding the good gift of our bodies, we will learn a false gospel. Our bodies are instruments of worship.
When we use our bodies for their intended purpose—in gathered worship, raising our hands or singing or kneeling, or in our average day, sleeping or savoring a meal or jumping or hiking or running, kneeling in prayer or nursing a baby or digging a garden—it is glorious, as glorious as a great cathedral being used just as its architect had dreamt it would be.
Continuing in this Chapter 3 of “Brushing Teeth” Trish, who is an Episcopal priest says, one of her favorite things to do as a priest is to participate in house blessings. If you are not familiar with the house blessing, it is done when people move into a new house. They gather to pray throughout the new home, moving from room to room and the priest uses a special liturgy for the occasion. Trish tells of a priest friend who noticed that everyone starts paying closer attention when they crowd into the bathroom to bless it. He anoints the bathroom mirror with oil and prays that when people look into it, they would see themselves as beloved images of God. He prays that they would not relate to their bodies with the categories the world gives them, but instead according to the truth of who they are in Christ.
I know when I look in the mirror sometimes I see my mother and sometimes I see my older brother. People use to ask if we were twins, I would get insulted because he is three years older!!!
It is easy to gaze into the mirror and take stock of all that we feel is lacking or wrong about our bodies. Instead we must learn the habit of beholding our bodies as a gift and learn to delight in the body God has made for us, that God loves, and that God will one day redeem and make whole.
This is the mystery of the Incarnation; the eternal Word taking on human nature—a genuine enfleshment who could experience feeling and need, and who could be crucified and killed. Jesus is the only one who has seen God; thus, through his life, we are enabled to see God’s love for the world. As we celebrate the priceless gift of the Incarnation, may we too become witnesses to the true light which is Christ.
Here at Trinity we witness the true light, you have been true witnesses with all that you have done during the Christian Caring Crisis, to our Rite 13 calls that again made sandwiches that were delivered to the homeless in Camden, and especially this Christmas, as we adopted 20 families who struggle every day. These are families who probably look in the mirror and say, “how am I going to get through this day. How am I going to provide for my family? I don’t see God.” We showed the true image of God, we witnessed the true light of Christmas…those who were in great darkness have seen the light of Christ. AMEN
Resources: Synthesis, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Sacred Space in Everyday Life; Trish Harrison Warren