Why Jesus’ Human Body is Good News for Us

The house was quiet. I was sitting on the couch, wrapped up in my favorite blanket, with a book on my lap and a scented candle flickering by the window. I took a sip of my tea, and thought: this is a sacred moment.

But was it? Because on the heels of that thought came another one—maybe I just mean cozy. I’m reading a novel after all, and not the Bible.

As I pondered this question about what counts as sacred, I was reminded of a study on 1 John. One of the heresies that threatened the early church was the doctrine of “Docetism” —the belief that Christ’s body was not human but only appeared real.

The Incarnation is an Everyday Reality

We don’t toss around the word “incarnation” much outside of the Christmas season, when we celebrate that God sent his son Jesus to us in human flesh. Seasoned Christians like myself have become so familiar with the story that we overlook the mystery of it all:

God as an embryo, God as a growing fetus, God sliding out of Mary’s birth canal into the world he created.

God, utterly dependent on others to feed him, clothe him, and keep him safe.

God, kissing his baby brothers and sisters, called in for dinner, learning how to read.

When I read the Gospels, I have no trouble imagining Jesus as fully God—he healed people! Walked on water! Taught with wisdom and authority! But to think of God as fully human stretches my imagination: he had a favorite food, he danced, he hugged, he cried, he got desperately tired.

Around this time of year, we thank God for sending Jesus to our neck of the woods, but we focus mainly on what this means for our souls, for our spiritual lives. We are prone to overlook what the incarnation means for our bodies, believing that the spiritual world is completely separate—and better—than the material world.

But God created the natural world and fashioned us as his special creatures. God uses the natural world to speak to us too: not just in a burning bush or a water-filled rock, but also through the song of crickets, a pile of laundry, a neighbor’s smile. Not only did God give us the capacity to enjoy his creation, to experience it with our five senses, he also gave us the ability to and desire to keep creating too: sandcastles, cookies, paint, flower arrangements, books, music…the list goes on.

Our bodies, with all of their limits, strengths, and weaknesses are indeed a part of our spiritual lives. When God sent Jesus to us, he sent him in a human body, demonstrating the inherent dignity, value, and goodness of our earthly flesh.

Why Jesus’ human body matters to us today

The sooner we understand that the material world belongs to God, the sooner we will see the sacredness of all things, and the sooner we will understand that our bodies can help us connect with God—deep breathing, savoring, singing, walking, creating, hugging.

Yes, we are vulnerable and finite creatures, with bad morning breath and knees that creak. But what would it look like to acknowledge our bodies as good, as worthy of our care, as a way to experience the movement of the Holy Spirit within us and around us?

Maybe our incarnational theology would help us be gentler with ourselves and lead us to respect our personal limitations.

Maybe it would help us recognize the image of God in others.

Maybe we would begin to treat our everyday activities—wiping counters, shoveling snow, paying bills, playing board games—as sacred.

Shannon K. Evans says in her book Rewilding Motherhood:

“Sacred acts draw us further into God; further into mercy and justice, further into faith, hope, and love. The people and actions that make up our lives are seeds of divine encounter. If we treat them as seeds must be treated—with intentionality, care, and consistency—they will sprout, blossom, and bear fruit.”

This Christmas season, may we remember “the great mystery of our faith,” that “Christ was revealed in a human body” (1 Tim. 3:16). May we live like the incarnation matters to us here and now, by treating the material world around us—all the sounds, sights, smells, and tastes of the season—as sacred, and by treating the people in our lives with the care and love of a divine encounter.

And if you’d like some ideas for a mindful Advent leading up to Christmas, one where you are reminded and inspired to connect to God through your bodily senses, grab a set of Mindfulness Advent Cards to print and use at home!

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*Feature Image by Anuja Tilj from Pixabay

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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