Advent and Christmas 2016: Making Peace with the Body
The Word became Flesh and made a dwelling among us. ~John 1
Now you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it. ~I Corinthians 12
The Rev. Molly Phinney Baskette, pastor of 1st Congregational Church in Berkeley, CA, produces an Advent-Christmas calendar each year. I especially appreciate how she probes these powerful seasons of the church year for the ways they call Christians into deeper, passionate awareness of the God who has an abiding concern for life in the flesh. Here is a portion of her letter introducing this year's calendar, which focuses on the body:
"Advent and Christmas embody two very different messages. Advent is about the tension of waiting for a world we cannot quite see, the vigilant insomnia as we anticipate a better sort of Ruler. Ahem.
"Christmas is about the reality that God is present with us in all times and circumstances -- deeply enfleshed in the matter of the world -- and reminds us that God’s strength actually lies in vulnerability, in the courageous act of taking on a human body, in coming to us as a larval human, in being willing to suffer all that we suffer, so God can likewise experience all the joys of being human.
"Most of the joy and most of the sorrow that can be had in life is traceable back to having a body. It is because we have bodies that we can smell a baby’s head, eat a perfect french fry, soap our legs in the bubble bath, make love. And it is because we have a body that we fear being beaten, going hungry, getting cancer, and someday: losing people we love to death, then dying ourselves.
"How do we make peace with the body: with our aches and pains, our limitations and dis/abilities, our aging, the threats against our well-being?
"How do we use our bodies, in this riven age, to make peace, make hope, make joy, make love?
"This Advent, let this calendar invite you to make peace with the body. Let it remind you that your body is a temple of God, a place where God's own Self has chosen to dwell. My friend Rev. Julian says that we often take a pornographic view of the body, seeing it in pieces and parts, 'I love my hair but I hate my tummy.' Let Advent re-member those parts, as you love the whole damn thing. Practice radical self-care and renewal.
"Let Advent re-member the other bodies of which you are a part: your primary relationships, your church if you have one, your country. Let it not be a false peace you reach for, a kind of Stockholm-syndrome capitulation to evil, but an embodied showing-up for what is right and good, a refusal to abdicate, a willingness to claim your place in the larger bodies that need you functioning at a high level.
"There is a prompt for December 6 -- incidentally, St. Nicholas Day, patron saint of the poor -- to intervene if you see someone being mistreated. In these shadowed days, let this prompt guide you every day to be a person of courage and principle, to break the code that says 'don’t get involved,' because you understand that we deeply belong to one another, and we will have to answer for our silence.
"Remember that you -- and everybody else you know -- is stardust. In your cells lies the most ancient energy of the universe, and those cells have been brought together at this moment, in this time, in this body, for a specific and holy purpose. Will you accept the call, to make peace with your body?
"Holy Advent, Blessed Christmas,