Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Incarnation.

I've thought a lot lately about the incarnation. The word become flesh. My faith and my dogma were separated a good little while ago. My dogma got ran over by life and experience and even common sense. Raised in the bible belt in Northeast Alabama in both the "city" Gadsden and the "country" Altoona. Church was a place to be both scared to death and to feel like I belonged to something bigger and greater than the world I grew up in and just couldn't feel quite at home in. Scarier like the time my grandmother took me and my sister and a fire and brimstone preacher had an alter call. "Somebody here tonight has had their last chance, they have heard their last gospel." Man, folks (in my memory from childhood, so I'm sure it's different from the memory.) But folks jumping toward the alter and the tears and the forgive me Jesus flying. My little self asking my grandmother what it meant and did the preacher mean somebody was gonna die tonight? Fiddling with the radio to try and find a radio preacher (yes, back in the early 60's you could find one in the bible belt) so I could be sure it wasn't me that had heard their "last gospel." On the other hand the comfort of going out to my back yard at a different time and after another sermon in a different church. Praying to God and hearing in my mind the words of hope and strength that would last me a whole lifetime. I could "hear" in my mind the Holy Spirit saying "Relax, I know you from the inside out and not the outside in." "I know your heart and I"m the one that answers for you." I want go into detail but believe me it saved my young sanity. The night I was baptized and had a cold and a stuffy head and when I came up my head cleared and I was breathing better. Coincidence? Selective memory? I don't know , but I do know it felt like the baptism took. Later in life going  through a period of questioning everything and feeling like most "smart" people couldn't possibly be Christians. The guilt and the closed minded bigotry and the dogma's of the fundamentalist
Now, I'm older and I have my own life experience and my own ideas about God and the universe. I have had a good dose of evolution and the facts of brain chemistry and I don't believe in fairy tails and bodies being reconstructed from dust and atoms reforming in the ground. However, I also don't believe that all life is an accident and that the evil of Hitler is no more than the life of a cockroach. I don't think the love of a mother for a child is no more than the life of a fruit fly. Dead is dead, no, I don't buy that. I've seen enough to believe that life and death have purpose. But, I'm also honest enough to tell you that "The bible says it and I believe it" isn't enough for me. Now, that will make some folks mad and I understand that. But, unless you were raised "in the church" then you have no idea how hard it has been to be honest enough with myself and my God to admit my doubts out loud or to even think them. But, this has become too introspective and much to self serving. So, let me get to the point of what I think of when I think about the incarnation.

 It occurred to me at some point that love isn't always about "rescuing" or "saving" people. Sometime it's about dying with them. Real love isn't rushing into the burning building and pulling somebody out and giving them mouth to mouth resuscitation. That's great and it's heroic but it's not always love. No, real love is when you rush into the burning building and realize that you can't get the "victim" out. So, instead of rushing back out you set down with them. You stay in the burning building next to them and accept the same fate. That's love and that's what the incarnation is to me. It's not Jesus with an "S" on his t-shirt. It's God made flesh and setting down beside me and loving me enough to die with me. Loving me enough not to go running out of the building and not dragging me out. But, to stay there and suffer and be willing to suffer the same fate. That's love.
Merry Christmas!