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Welcome the Word Made Flesh
[Editor's note: This Advent season, we published a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is John 1:1-14. This is the final Advent reflection from SFTS.]
By Rev. Dr. Jim McDonald
Welcome the Word made flesh!
At Christmas we celebrate not only Christ's birth, but also the possibility of our rebirth. The Incarnation speaks eloquently about what we can become as well as what God has become. As Christina Rossetti put it: "Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine."
John's Gospel (and our own experience) tells us that one of the responses people make to Christmas is to resist it. We resist because the life we have is the only life we can imagine. We see our lives as do-it-yourself, progressive improvement projects. Every day, every year, we do a little bit better, achieve a little more, advance a little farther, add another feather in our cap. We do our duty and fulfill our goals, until slowly but surely we achieve something—wealth, fame, power, security, whatever. And we reject anything that interferes with "our little project"— including "God with us."
But "progressive improvement" is a fantasy, a figment of our imagination. Life is not linear or predictable. It surprises, amazes, frightens, troubles—moves in quantum leaps and on cautious tiptoe, with twists and turns, like a glacier or at the speed of light, greeting us with unanticipated moments of wonder, discovery, joy and delight, scarring us with uninvited moments of grief, disappointment, emptiness, and hurt.
The birth of Jesus Christ is God's ultimate affirmation of our humanity, and of life itself. The gift of God invites us to open ourselves to a new relationship with the God of love, one that will change all our relationships, making us more humble, appreciative, generous, kind, forgiving, and compassionate-in other words, more God-like and more fully human, all at the same time. Once again, Christina Rossetti:
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and everyone,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Merry Christmas all!
Rev. Dr. Jim McDonald is president and professor of faith and public life at San Francisco Theological Seminary.
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