Take Hold of Love
Advent 4 – Narrative Lectionary 4
December 24, 2017
Grace, Mankato, MN
A mother had no sooner put her young daughter to bed when the little girl called out to her. It seems that the little girl was afraid of the dark and all sorts of imaginary things that go bump in the night. Thinking she could assure her daughter and give her a lesson in practical theology at the same time, the harried mother assured the little girl that Jesus was with her and she would be just fine. The girl, a budding theologian herself, claimed she could not see Jesus. Not to be outdone, mom told the girl that Jesus was indeed there but in her heart. Even so the girl exclaimed, “But mom, I want Jesus with skin on.”
“The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of a Father’s only son.” John’s nativity story is unlike Matthew and Luke, but it is no more lacking in theological themes. Whether or not the little girl knew the text or not, she has instinctively cut right to the heart of it. Today is not the day for deconstructing biblical texts or constructing systematic theologies. Rather, today is a day for acknowledging the wonder that God comes to us “with skin on.”
John’s text resonates with us so deeply because we are fleshly creatures who need to touch. We long for “skin”: human contact, warm embraces, friendly handshakes, and cuddles and snuggles. So much so that when we can’t touch or touch goes bad we find ourselves crushed and broken. A number of years ago a study was done of an understaffed Russian orphanage whose workers were unable to hold and touch all of the babies. It was found that those babies who were held periodically thrived, but those who were not held atrophied and even died. And as we know all too well, there is no lack of news these days about “bad touches” with often devastating consequences.
Of course, that little budding theologian wanted the warm, gentle assurance and presence of her mom. For her mother was “Jesus with skin on,” one way she could connect with a loving God. John’s nativity is not just some lofty doctrine but the cornerstone that touches all we say and do. God knows that we need concrete expressions of his love, which is why he continues to give himself in, with and through Holy Communion.
And when later theologians work this out they will talk about you and me as the Body of Christ. I have seen your fleshiness, my sisters in brothers, in powerful ways: feeding the hungry through Crossroads Lutheran Campus Ministry, Echo Food Shelf, Backpack Food Program, and the Salvation Army. Giving shelter to the homeless through Connections Ministry; giving warmth to the cold through our quilting and knitting ministry; and so many other ways
The Word became flesh so that you could grab a hold of God and never let go, knowing his love. Amen.