If you haven’t been thinking much about your body this Advent, I want to invite you to begin. It’s so important to truly celebrate Christmas.
We can approach Christmas too lost in busy-ness, consumerism, and perfectionism, but we can also approach Christmas over-spiritually.
The first Christmas happened so long ago and in a very different culture, so it can feel other-worldly to us. But your body holds the key to connecting you to Jesus’ birth and all it holds for you.
As I wrote last week, the Word became flesh to rescue your body. God was not content to see your body lost to sin, sickness, death, and decay. God became en-fleshed to rescue your flesh, your body.
And this is why your body is the key that can lead you into the essence of Christmas.
So practically, how can you let your body “turn the key,” so to speak, and draw you more deeply into this incredible mystery?
First, muse on the truth that God designed every part of the spiritual and physical fabric of who you are, and He delights in your body. You’re His poem (Ephesians 2:10).
So in that light, try to enjoy your body as you move through this season.
Consider His pleasure as your ears listen to music, your belly laughs, your hands cook or decorate or wrap, your tongue tastes Christmas favorites, your eyes take in colors and light, or your toe taps impatiently in line.
Here are some other ideas:
- Offer your body as a gift to others by serving in little or big ways, noticed or unnoticed by others. (In other words, love with your body.)
- Give holy kisses.
- Rest well.
- Hold a baby (ask permission if it’s not yours).
- Give someone a long hug who needs it (more do than you realize).
- Feel the cold on your skin.
- Feel your hunger, tiredness, tears.
- If you’re in a season of sickness or even dying, consider that this now, in your flesh, is what He came to heal and restore. Now or in the resurrection.
- And in the sorrows or disappointments of today, instead of slipping into frustration that the holidays aren’t supposed to be like this, let your body feel its longing for His second coming, when you will see Him face to face and all will be made new.
For all the wonder of your physical senses now, thank Jesus that because He took on flesh, your senses will one day be restored to their full capacity—to taste, and see, and hear, and smell, and touch, and love with greater joy than you can yet imagine.
Jesus, we eagerly anticipate Christmas with our bodies, and our bodies are more so waiting eagerly for Your return, when we will see you face to face, body to body, and all will be made new. O Come, o come, Emmanuel.
I’d love to hear your ideas! How else might you and I let our bodies “turn the key” to more fully take in the essence of Christmas? Leave your thoughts here.
Josh, this is great. Thank you for this. My busy, left brain, to do list mode, I can miss out on all the things you’re talking about. Thank you!
Me, too, Connally! Something about Jesus having a left brain, too, means we have hope, right? He doesn’t leave these busy, to-do list parts of our make-up behind, but assumes them into Himself to restore and heal. I need this today, Lord!
Being disembodied leads to dysfunction and addiction. A theme that is very seldom touched on it is the ” dirty” flesh. Our bodies were designed to Praise Him, to bless others, and to bless us with health, joy and anticipation. Thanks for this!!
Thank you! This was very helpful and I will share with others.
Josh, this is so good. I want to share it. Very novel and will remind me about my body this holiday.
Thank you for the second part of this discussion to not denigrate the body (as in some sort of docetism which is “…from Greek dokeo, “to appear” or “seem”…the doctrine that…Christ only seemed to be a human being” (Brown 1988, 52). Docetism is rooted in one pagan Greek idea that “the body is inherently and necessarily evil”- and therefore must always be renounced, hated and seen as perhaps our greatest spiritual enemy.
Unfortunately, some “Protestants have been led by the same logic to conclude that because he was truly and fully human, Jesus must also…have been involved in sin”. (Brown 1988, 344)
Yet- in the Garden of Eden- the body was not “created” evil- for we know that “…God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13, NKJV). “T,his is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5, NKJV).
The body- as house for the soul which was brought about by the very breath of God in man (spirit)- was originally created to reflect the true and pure nature of God while living under the Father’s authority. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, KJV).
We were originally created as “viceroy”- which is defined as “A man [or woman] who is the governor of a country, province, or colony, ruling as the representative of a sovereign” (www.thefreedictionary.com/viceroy).
Genesis 1 (NKJV)
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth [over all the wild animals of the earth] and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
I recall in seminary when it dawned on me that the body is not “inherently” evil. This means I am free to embrace my body as one vehicle through which God can shine His Glory and reveal His purpose.
Finally, I am tremendously blessed by on C.S. Lewis’ book titled, “The Problem of Pain”. For our pain can either lead us to reveal God’s greater Glory or to be used as an instrument by drive us away from God. If the body is truly “not inherently evil”- that face then always gives me the freedom of a choice- that I can always choose to serve and honor God.
I now quote a few portions from “The CS Lewis Review”, in particular from an online article: THE GOSPEL OF HOMESICKNESS: OUT OF THE SHADOWLANDS by Bruce L. Edwards
The privilege of pain implies something else: a personal stake, a participatory investment in fathoming an answer to unlock its mysteries, an answer that is the key to everything else, everything else that matters. The problem or the privilege?…
Pain as Homesickness: Finding Neverland
The last set of lines from the short appendix in The Problem of Pain, provided by Lewis’s friend, his medical doctor, also a fellow Inkling, Robert Havard, helpfully sums up the story offered to anyone living with or amidst pain: “Pain provides an opportunity for heroism; the opportunity is seized with surprising frequency.” Pain may define its victims, but not its heroes. My pain and yours is a clue to the meaning of the universe….
If Pain evokes homelessness, living in the Shadowlands demands a gospel of homesickness. Pain is not native to the land from which we come. Where is that land? The problem or the privilege? The Problem of Pain is climaxed by two of the richest chapters Lewis ever wrote, a stirring reassurance that Heaven is our true home and not for a second is it subject to Hell’s blackmail. Any amount of pain, alienation, exile, and loss can be endured if we can be assured that the Shadowlands are in fact Shadows, and our true home is elsewhere. Listen again to Lewis:
The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle [i.e. a barrier] to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe, or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home….
This the gospel of homesickness. Our aim is to point to “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” To come home….
But, I hasten to add—this does not add up to a retreatist mentality. To the contrary, it is our understanding and participation in the world’s shadows, the world’s pain, that prepares most to serve, and most to live, in this penultimate world. We are to be incarnate, like Christ, finishing His work, by the power of the Holy Spirit, which involves the privilege of suffering for Him, and his body. Lewis embodies the essence of this gospel of homesickness in these famous lines from Mere Christianity:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. ==> I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same…
Life, yes, must be lived in the Shadowlands, but we are not to become accustomed to it as our homeland, nor as the last word, a valediction. When it is illuminated by the gospel of homesickness, it is, in fact, a benediction, addressing not only the problem of, but the privilege of, pain, a path lighted by the Son all the way home.
Brown, Harold O.J. 1988. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy In The History Of The
Church. Massachusetts: Hendrickson. Originally published under the title Heresies: the Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy by Baker Books. Michigan.
“The CS Lewis Review”, in particular from- an online article: The Gospel of Homesickness. THE GOSPEL OF HOMESICKNESS: OUT OF THE SHADOWLANDS (Hebrews 11:8-10; 13-16) Bruce L. Edwards. Sermon, Bowling Green Covenant Church Sunday, March 18, 2007. http://www.cslewisreview.org/the-gospel-of-homesickness/
Thank you for this essay. I never thought of bodily woes and Christmas (and Easter) together, in just this way. It opens a starting point for much thinking and perhaps also many conversations.