Flesh Like Ours

First Sunday of Christmas

Hebrews 2:14-18 (NRSV): Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

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‘Tis the season to remember God behaving strangely.

For thousands of years, humans thought of gods as peculiar, distant beings. They were demanding, capricious things to be appeased.

If you were particularly lucky, the One True God, the Creator God, revealed himself to you in obscure ways: a voice, an impulse, a burning bush. But to see his face was to invite death. For sinful humans, a full dose of holiness was poison.

The One True God did eventually tell us his name, “I Am,” hinting that greater intimacy was possible. The great I Am also made promises. You turned away from me, and now pain and death are your chosen portion. But one will come to deliver all of humanity.

Imaginations reeled at the possibilities. Perhaps I Am would raise up a mighty king, one swift and terrible in his power, destroying all who failed to swear allegiance to the One True God. God’s people, the Israelites, would rule the world. And I Am would smile on them in what the prophets called The Day of the Lord.

That’s the kind of messiah the human imagination creates—a mighty man, a prince of fire, a holy Rambo for the ages.

A show of power was standard operating procedure for any god. And certainly, the One True God had revealed his power before. What else should humanity expect of God Almighty?

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

God in squirming baby flesh? God in poverty, born in a barn? That’s strange.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

God as the loving peacemaker, offering grace to his enemies and exhorting us to do the same? That’s stranger still.

“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.”

The Son of God nailed to a cross? The sinless God-man dying for our sins? Bizarre.

Once you accept those ideas, the mystery of the resurrection begins to make sense. If the Creator God wrapped himself in humanity only to be vanquished by death, wouldn’t the universe dissolve? Jesus had to walk out of the tomb.

Let us revel in this strange time of year, when we remember God doing the unexpected and anticipate the promised return of Jesus Christ, Lord of all.

‘Tis the season of the flesh and blood God.

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