Excerpted from Cultivating Care for Creation, an Advent Guide for Lectionary Year A from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us…
And the word became flesh and lived among us…
In the incarnation we see God’s ultimate affirmation of the physical earth. That God would assume physical existence—that God would be wrapped in flesh and bone, tendon and cartilage—was an insurmountable obstacle for many early Christians. In fact, the early Church’s most formidable heresy was Christian Gnosticism, a system of dualism that separated evil bodily existence from the spiritual realm of purity and truth. Christian Gnostics simply could not circle the paradoxical square of a perfect God assuming fallen flesh. It’s a stumbling block that has continued to dog the church and lives on in various forms today.
But the incarnation should come as no surprise to those who pay close attention to God’s actions in the world. The gospel writer has been paying attention, and signals as much in that favorite Advent verse: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
Matter has always mattered to God. God creates the world—sun, rocks, birds, bacteria—and rejoices in its goodness. God creates humans, both male and female, and calls us to be caretakers of God’s beloved world. God shows us power in water, delivers healing in leaves, promises grace through rainbows, sustains life through soil. God is praised by the trees, and worship breaks forth in the mountains. God lavishly displays God’s love in the world around us and is always using the stuff of the world—be it flesh, water, bread, or wine—to reveal God’s self. Nowhere is this more powerfully on display than in the incarnation, when the Word that created matter assumes it in order to redeem it.
God is so concerned with the created world that God freely chose to enter into it. But do we share that concern? Do our lives display a similar love and appreciation for the created world? Do we allow the power and magnitude of the incarnation to transform our relationship with the creation? Or do we cast aside the physical and earthly paradoxical God-human and reduce God to a spiritualized religious dogma?
If God views the stuff of earth as worthy of participating in the work of redemption, what keeps us from celebrating creation and engaging in the sacred work of serving and protecting it?
Prayer: God of Love and Light, with all of creation, we give thanks for the gift of the Christ child. Show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth. Help us to protect all life and prepare for a better future. Amen.