Written by Holly MillerShank
In the midst of the Advent Season, often we find ourselves shopping, wrapping, baking, running errands … not necessarily pondering the incarnation.
The incarnation, or God made flesh, can seem like an abstract concept to which we don’t give much thought between school holiday concerts, one-day store sales, and making sure we have enough stamps for all of our Christmas cards.
My favorite lesson on the incarnation is found in the United Church of Christ’s Affirming Faith confirmation curriculum.
The lesson tells this story:
There was a man who didn’t care to get caught up in all the chaos of the holiday season. So he snuggled in at home while his wife and children went to Christmas Eve church services. While they were gone a storm arose and a flock of small birds became trapped. The birds tapped against the picture window and scurried on the porch trying to find a place of respite from the snow. The man got up, bundled himself against the cold, and trudged outside to open the barn door so the birds could find shelter. Unfortunately, the birds did not know this was his intention and they continued to flounder. The man then turned on the barn light hoping it would be a signal to the birds, again, they did not understand. Thinking that food might be a better option the man spread bread crumbs from the barn towards toward the now frantic birds, but as he approached he only succeeded in scaring them more. In desperation the man shouted, “Oh God, why can’t I just be a bird for a few minutes so that they will trust me and I can lead them to safety?”
This is the essence of the incarnation and the reason we celebrate Christmas. God choose to enter into human form through the infant Jesus so that we could see, experience, and learn from the Holy One. Christmas is an in-breaking of God’s mystery into a familiar form: an infant. An infant who would grow and teach us the path of righteousness and justice. An infant turned man who was both human and divine, Jesus Christ the one whom we adore.
May the incarnation bring new meaning to our everyday routines this Christmas and remind us that God so loves and cares for us that God entered the world to bring us to safety through Jesus Christ.
Sparking Ministry Conversations
What story illustrates the incarnation for you? In what ways do you see or experience Jesus within your daily life? How does your church teach about incarnation during the Christmas season?
Rev. Holly MillerShank serve as the Team Leader for Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA). At Christmas time she often used this story of the incarnation during Kinderaugen (German for "through children's eyes"), which was time for small children at Grace UCC in Lebanon PA where she served as pastor prior to joining the national setting.