Over on Santos Woodcarving Popsicles, where the bible is quoted freely, a friend of SWP suggests that this might be the single most important verse in Scripture: John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood... (1.14a, The Message)."
As incarnationalist we Anglicans of whatever stripe are given to putting great emphasis on this business of God dwelling among us - the Word becoming flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood. We mostly celebrate this reality in our lives by settling into the peculiar Feast of the Incarnation, a feast unburdened of the temptation to think of matter as somehow evil and spirit good. Here at last is the feast for the unitary rather than the dualistic; the hedonist and the ascetic together; the joyful and the sorrowful as life in its fullest. The birth of Christ is a knock down fully joyful thing, uniting heaven and earth in a generous moment, so generous that even the opposites are held in one world.
It of course has all the implications for repentance and conversion that we associate with the Good News, and by itself it can turn either sickeningly sweet or rampantly carousing. The Puritans looked down on the celebration of Christmas feeling that it was too much the latter. Anyone who sees the birth of Jesus as the celebration of God's moving into the neighborhood in order to make real a new way of being in the world must see the Christmas world of Santa, elves, reindeer with or without red noses, strange stories of Christmas being stolen by Grinches and children dancing about with snowmen a bit over the top. Too much sugar and too much rum make for a bum Christmas.
Still, here it is: In far southern climes where Christ is born as the days begin to get shorter and here where the storms of winter moan, the fact is we know and celebrate the really really big change - not the turning of seasons but the turning of ourselves because God turned towards us.
Where before we might wonder if this world was hell, or at best a joke being played on us, now we know: Being in the world is a gift, one that we humans have in abundance. And into this world God comes incarnate, and it was said that incarnate in Jesus, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. So if this world is good enough for God to be pleased to dwell, perhaps we can take the hint and believe it is so. It is always time to turn, to turn around, and see the world as God saw it in creation, when God called it good.
I wish it was easier for people to find a neighborhood in which to plant themselves at Christmas. Some neighborhood places are toxic or dangerous, some are too judgmental or too sticky sweet, some are without joy, but most neighborhoods have a place, sometimes a church, where we will find welcome and one that will welcome our open hears.
Here in Lewes, on the bay and the edge of the great water, it is cold and crisp. By tomorrow it will turn into the normal Delaware Christmas eve - rainy and cold and damp. But here in this neighborhood there is St. Peter's Episcopal Church decked out and ready to go, ready to be a neighborhood place in which God might well be pleased to dwell.
Good readers, I hope you find your neighborhood place, where God among us would be pleased to be present, where the welcome is there for the stranger and the open heart in each of us is welcomed.
This is the last posting until Boxing Day. V. God's blessings on us all. R. And also on them.