Year ago now, British author Dorothy Sayers wrote a murder mystery of this title - 'Whose Body?'. That title helps us also, to explore the doctrine of the incarnation. In order to redeem our world, this planet, God came as God's Self, in the Person of Jesus. God was alive in Jesus of Nazareth. He has made Him both Lord and Christ.
Christian writer Philip Yancey writes – "To my fish I am a deity and one who does not hesitate to intervene. I often long for a way to communicate with those small-brained water dwellers. Out of ignorance, they perceive me as a constant threat. I cannot convince them of my true concern. I am too large for them, my actions to incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they see as cruelty; my attempts at healing they view as destructive. To change their perception would require a form of incarnation."
God does not despise his creation.
God continues to work in the world He created, to redeem and to reconcile it back to the original creation purpose, with human beings included, fashioned to be the epitome of creation, to be God's servants and stewards of this vast 'garden.' He created humans just a little lower than angels, says the psalmist, and "crowned them with glory and honor." But humans have failed in the task of being God's faithful stewards through our own willful disobedience, and that first of all by the first representative human, Adam. The world is broken, not quite as intended; we know it in our bones.
But God did not and does not give up on us nor this world. He began again with individuals like Seth, Enoch, Abraham and Moses – a long line of patriarchs. He continued with the building of a nation, Israel, calling them together at Mount Sinai. We can trace through the Old Testament the many stories of their victories and failures. And then, in the fullness of time, the Hope of Israel, the Child of promise was born of a Virgin mother, to become the second Adam. Like the first Adam, He is a representative human, a New Man – an obedient Man this time, a holy Man - this Jesus.
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
The incarnation, says one writer, is "God slogging around through the muck of history." And again the ultimate mystery as someone puts it – "born with a skull you could crush one-handed."
Chaplain and Pastor Studdert-Kennedy wrote that "to attempt to worship a God without a name is to attempt the impossible. Religion is falling in love with God and it is impossible to fall in love with an abstract God – he must have a name. The Christian faith says boldly to mankind – come let us introduce you to God; his name is Jesus and he was a carpenter by trade." God took upon himself a body entering our space and time.
God in Christ is fully Man and fully God.
Jesus fully accomplished the plan of God and fully kept the laws of God. He perfectly represented the people of God, living for us, dying for us and rising for us – ascending to victory for us. In him we have 'redemption, reconciliation through his blood.' Jesus entered in an unimaginable way into the depths of our human despair and loneliness. Frederick Buechner writes, "Where he was, passion was, life was. You must catch life from him the way sails catch the wind."
God enters our body.
Eugene Peterson says this: "Spirituality requires content. Always. Boundaries, borders, limits. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ No one becomes more spiritual by becoming less material. "Do you not know, asks St. Paul, "that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Therefore glorify God in your body."
We are to glorify God not only in our thoughts nor only in quiet prayer and meditation. We are to glorify him in the earth in the everydayness of our existence. And we exist in bodies. We glorify God through our art, in our music, in our child-raising and family sharing, in our care for the sick, and in our visiting the lonely and dying. We do it in our work and our vocation; we do it in our retirement. We are to be like Jesus and thus godly, to say and to do as He shows and tells us. We are to see by His Spirit and feel with His heart and move with His compassion and love with His mercy. God never gives us the thing to do concerning which it would be irreverent to ponder how the son of God would have done it."
In Luke 4, Jesus said in words that echoed the ancient prophecy of Isaiah, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon Me.' We too need this anointing, becoming little Christs, for this is what anointed one means: - "He has sent me to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives." And we have the same message in the same anointing, as individuals and as the body of Christ together. John captured Jesus‘ words, in chapter 20:21, "As the Father has sent me into the world, so send I you."
Even our broken, bent, aging bodies are temples of the Spirit of Christ. Our fighting, separated, apathetic churches, are temples of the Spirit of God. How we ought to guard them, to keep them holy, to keep them sure, to keep them in the best health we can, God being our Helper as in ages past and our Hope for years to come. For this we pray - that God would show up once again and reveal His presence and power within His temple, and within these temples – our bodies, that He has prepared.
In the midst of times when life is most difficult, through tears and trauma, God in the Spirit of Christ still makes his entrance. George MacDonald wrote, "He comes down his own secret stair into the life of each individual." The important thing is not how he comes but that he comes. And Christians should be eager to recognize the varieties of his coming and celebrate:
My fancied ways why shouldst thou heed?
Thou com’st down thine own secret stair;
Com’st down to answer all my need,
Yes, every bygone prayer.