Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas All Year Long

Christmas Day, December 25, 2010, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore

We all love our bodies. Well, some of us would like to change the way our body looks or works, but none of us wishes we didn't have one. More than having bodies, we are bodies. We cannot think of a disembodied existence without a sense of profound horror. Bodies are the aspect of our being that locate us and make us accessible to other people. This is why the Incarnation is so important to us. In the Incarnation God becomes a human body. The angels sang about it, the shepherds went and saw it, Mary bore it and Joseph worshipped at its manger cradle. St. Paul, in his great hymn to the Incarnate Christ in Philippians 2 talks about God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, coming and being made in the likeness of you and me. The Incarnation makes God accessible—God with us, Emmanuel.

I recently watched a show on the National Geographic channel about the resurrection of Christ. Funny thing to run during this season, really, but then, it's not, really. This season is all about a very important Body, one in which we recognize not just ourselves as bodies, but God as the maker and redeemer of bodies. The issue with the resurrection, of course, is ultimately about a Body. Like a who-done-it, the question is, where's the body? What happened to the body? The show, of course, was not willing to admit that perhaps a dead body was delivered to the grave, and a living body left it, but it was fair to us Christians in our belief in the resurrection.

For us Christians, however, the question of "Where's the body?" is not solved by the resurrection. It is solved only after the Ascension. In one sense the Incarnation ended at the Ascension, in that God embodied is now back in heaven, where we will one day be. But in another very important way it did not. St. Paul says, "Don't you know that you are the body of Christ?" Augustine of Hippo in a great sermon to converts about to take communion for the first time, cites this passage and explains that when we take communion we are partaking of the Body of Christ, and that body is us.

Once again, this is why the Incarnation is so important. In the Incarnation God became one of us, joined His own creation as a creature. In the Ascension God transferred that bodily presence to us creatures. The Incarnation has not ended, it goes on and on. In continues in the Body of Christ, the Church Mystical.

Sometime during this Christmastide you have or will hear schmaltzy songs about living Christmas all year and not just in December. They are, of course, a call to generosity of spirit and warmth of affection for one another and that does not entirely miss the point at all. However, we Christians are called to live Christmas all year in a very concrete way: Every time a Christian acts like a Christian God is present in a body. In fact, any time that anyone acts like Christ, no matter where or when or how, Emmanuel has returned.

O come, o come, o come Emmanuel!

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