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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, 2016

I was wondering last night: if Jesus is truly God-with-us, if Emmanuel is fully real . . .

did he know what it felt like to kneel by a privy or a ditch and hurl his guts out? Did he know what it was to lie in bed and shiver from a fever; to bend over from stomach cramps; to splinter or cut his hand in his father's workshop; to twist an ankle, wrench a knee, bang his head; to blow his nose for days from a cold?

If Wesley's last words are right -- "the best of all is, God is with us" -- then Emmanuel finds its truth not just in a manger or on a cross, but in all the bloody, messy, puke-filled vagaries of our lives. Christmas is but the beginning and Good Friday the conclusion of a life utterly like ours in every respect. Every.

And Easter, in Keith Miller's words, is like God's signature scrawled across the end of Jesus' life, saying, "This is mine."

Several Apocryphal/Gnostic gospels attempt to fill in the missing thirty years of Jesus' life with stories of how he made clay animals come to life when he was lonely, how he healed sick friends as a child, and how he struck dead a town bully and then revived him. The Gnostics discounted humanity -- Jesus is Superboy, only worse. That's why the Church, in its wisdom, decided they were apocryphal: they did not represent the fully human Jesus it worshipped. Dan Brown to the contrary, those "gospels" were rejected not because their Jesus was too human, but not enough.

We're having a very incarnate Christmas here at Yellow Tavern, sharing a stomach virus in the way all close and loving families do. We are kneeling, but not at a manger. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh have been replaced by ginger ale, imodium, and Febreeze. We're not following a star: we're looking for some sleep.

And that, it seems to me, is the real meaning of Christmas. Fear not.

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