God with skin on

In the miracle of the Incarnation, God takes on the messiness of everyday life.

By Amy Butler

One of my spiritual mentors used to remark around Christmas every year about how amazing it is that God decided it would be a good idea to come to earth as a human. “Jesus was God -- with skin on!” she would always say with delight.

Here again, on the edge of Incarnation, we look through the darkness and wait for the miracle to come: God with us. And, like every year about this time, I wonder that God would ever choose the messy adventure of becoming human.

The other day I had lunch with a new mother in our church family. After two months of house-bound sleep deprivation she was finally feeling up to getting out. During our visit I was reminded of the many, many accommodations that babies require.

On top of the inconvenience of lugging all the baby gear the new mom carried with her, we had to stop several times during our visit to feed the baby or change his diaper or adjust something that needed adjusting.

Even holding the little one took special effort. You had to cradle his head just right to support his neck -- but only after slathering your hands with sanitizer, of course. Holding that baby and seeing his doting mother brought to mind the messy reality of Incarnation -- the incredible miracle that God would come to earth and dwell among us.

Last week I also sweated through yet another workout at the gym. As I plowed through my session on the elliptical machine, a trainer came by to tell me I wasn’t going fast enough or at a steep-enough incline.

I wanted to jump off the machine and argue. Surely he had no idea how creaky my knees were and how much effort it took for me to even get in the door to the gym, much less to haul myself up on that contraption.

My body was not happy with the effort. I could feel my age in every moment of the experience. I kept going, sweating and breathing hard, and I thought some more about the messy reality of Incarnation, the incredible miracle that God would come to earth and dwell among us.

I also sat in the hospital with a dear congregation member. She had just received some very bad news from the doctor, and I was there to do what pastors do, which in my experience is generally a lot of sitting next to bedsides trying desperately to think of anything even remotely helpful to say.

I sat there holding her hand and thought about the pain she and her family were now facing and all the fear and uncertainty that will surely weave their way through the days ahead. I asked her if she was scared and, true to form, she said she thought this whole dying experience might be a great opportunity for spiritual growth.

Tears slipped from the corners of my eyes, even though I know it’s usually not helpful in these situations for the pastor to cry. Listening to the grace she displayed even in the face of devastating news, I thought about the messy reality of Incarnation, the incredible miracle that God would come to earth and dwell among us.

I guess God knew the truth about Incarnation even before he showed up, but doesn’t that make his coming even more of a miracle? At every step along this human journey there’s adjustment, discomfort, pain, fear, growth and change. And through Incarnation God knows -- in some of the rawest and most pain-filled ways -- what it is like to be us.

It just makes me think again this year that even in the messy reality of Incarnation, there’s no greater gift than God with us, a God with skin on.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.