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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Wednesday, December 8

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
—John 1:14

The language is so familiar that it’s easy to forget how radical it really is: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us...” What Irenaeus and other early theologians referred to as the “scandal of the Incarnation” is just that—scandalous. The thought that God, who is perfect, would become a vulnerable human being is more than our minds can handle. And yet, here we are again, once more preparing to celebrate this most unlikely event.

Our ambivalence about the Incarnation isn’t hard to understand. Taught primarily by example and attitude, we grow up with the notion that matter—this physical world and all it contains, including our own bodies—is somehow less acceptable to God than our spiritual pursuits. The focus of our practice thus becomes distancing ourselves from “the flesh.” But flesh is what the Word of God became, and it is where this Word of God continues to make himself known.

Describing the Incarnation as a “perpetual Cosmic and personal process,” theologian and mystic Evelyn Underhill maintained that this mystery involves far more than the birth of a baby 2000-plus years ago. As she puts it in her classic text Mysticism, “It is an everlasting bringing forth, in the universe and also in the individual ascending soul, of the divine and perfect Life, the pure character of God, of which the one historical life dramatized the essential constituents.”

“It is an everlasting bringing forth”—and we are a part of it now.

O God, help me to enter the experience of Christ’s birth in such a way that I might be more open to the birth of your spirit in me.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2004.