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Living an Embodied Faith This Advent Season

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“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14, NIV.

I know this passage of Scripture well, having grown up in Church and heard it recited by my Pastor year after year. It’s usually a passage read around the time of Advent and Christmas, reminding us that Christ came down in the Name of Love to give Love away. 

But although I’ve heard it numerous times throughout my life, the weight of it didn’t settle into my bones until this Advent. This slow stirring in my soul began to form as this verse landed in my heart in a different way one early Advent morning before the sun was up. I sat there in the dark, questioning, wrestling, wondering why this verse was jumping out at the page at me in a way it never had before. 

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

Soul Stirrings & Longings

Right in the middle of this past fall, before Advent began, I started watching the show The Chosen for the first time. It’s a historical drama tv series about the life and ministry of Jesus. As I watched I became more and more enraptured with the passing of each episode. The show does a wonderful job of depicting the humanness of Jesus’ disciples, and of Jesus Himself. It fascinated me to watch how Jesus might’ve interacted with people at that time, healing them and serving them, and even growing tired and hungry. 

For the first time in my life, I got to watch the Jesus that I have grown to know and read about and love and live for all these years come to life on a screen. I could picture Him with hands and hair, a body that needed caring for; fed, rested, and bathed. Fingernails that needed trimming, feet that needed washing, and teeth that needed to be brushed. And even though I know the actor onscreen is just that, a human actor giving a portrayal of the real Jesus, I began to yearn for what I didn’t realize at the time as an embodied faith. 

Shortly after finishing seasons 1 and 2 of The Chosen, I attended my first silent guided retreat at a contemplative Christian retreat center known as The Hermitage. And it was there that I began to long even deeper for this embodied faith, even though I didn’t realize that was what I was longing for at the time. 

In the room prepared for me at The Hermitage was a small wooden desk and on that desk was a small, wooden handheld cross. It called to me and I answered by carrying it with me everywhere I went during that weekend on retreat. As I walked the wooded trails and labyrinths that The Hermitage offered, I carried that cross in my hands; praying and running my fingers over its smooth surfaces and along its curves. 

Doing this began to anchor me, putting me in my own body, calling me to the present moment as I dwelled there with Christ. 

Christianity is Thoroughly an Embodied Faith

After I returned from the retreat, I ordered my own wooden handheld cross on Amazon and began using it the same way I did at The Hermitage. During my morning prayer time and as I read the Scriptures, I hold it, running my fingers along it and over it. It’s not that I need to have this cross in my hand in order for Christ to be near. It’s not the manmade cross in my hand that I’m worshipping. But it is a conduit of my worship, inviting me to engage my body in the liturgy of each morning. 

And then Advent came, slowly but surely, and I found myself longing to touch Christ. As my fingers held the weight of my handheld cross, I hungered to hold His flesh in my hands. To feel what it might be like to hug Him, to touch His face, to be held by His arms. 

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

In this season of Advent, the Jesus that I have been following most of my life has become embodied. The reality that He chose to be clothed in flesh, built with bone, and filled with bodily fluid is forming some kind of new truth in me. The truth that my faith was intended to be embodied; lived out in the day-to-day of my ordinary life, in the body that God chose to give me. 

Tish Harrison Warren in her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, says,

“At root, Christianity is thoroughly an embodied faith.”

We worship with our hands lifted in praise, we sing with our voices, we kneel in prayer, and water leaks from our eyes when we’re happy or sad. Our bodies were created to carry babies, hold those who are mourning, cook meals for our friends and families, brush our teeth, hold the door open for a stranger, and make the bed. 

Our emotions are often felt in our body as stress turns to headaches and fear turns to sweat, as happiness bubbles up as laughter and a sense of lightness, and trauma sinks down deep into the belly. We were created to hold many things inside our bodies and we house more than we know. 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 has this to say about our bodies,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (NIV)

And our bodies were created to be temples of the Holy Spirit to reflect Jesus, who was the first One to house the Spirit in His own earthly body,

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22, NIV)

The In-Between Life of Jesus

Our bodies were created to be temples of worship, the very conduits of Christ’s presence, making everything we do – the most mundane of tasks – an act of worship; our own liturgy toward heaven. 

So as we make our beds, cook for our families, brush our teeth, go to work, commune with friends, and lay down to sleep, we are called to do so with the body of Christ in mind. We are invited to remember that our bodies are good because Christ chose to come to us in the same flesh, blood, and bone that you and I both bear. 

To live an embodied faith means to do just that – to live inside of our bodies and offer them up as living sacrifices to God. 

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” 

Jesus came down wrapped in flesh, and then He lived a life offered up to God.  

Have you ever noticed that Jesus’ childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood aren’t really recorded in the Bible? We are privy to His conception and birth, and catch a glimpse of Him when He was young and caught preaching in a temple as His parents realized they had left Him behind – but that’s it! We don’t see Him again until the start of His ministry. 

In that unrecorded, in-between time, Jesus lived a life inside His earthly body. He worked with His hands alongside His earthly father, Joseph, learning the trade of carpentry. He was shaped and raised and formed and molded by His mother, Mary. I’m sure He was teased by His siblings, instructed to do His schoolwork, and told not to stay out too late. He was reminded to brush His teeth, bathe His body so He wouldn’t stink, and comb His hair before it became too unruly. 

But we rarely think of Jesus in this human way, do we? Well, I think we should remember to every now and then. Because in remembering the humanly ordinary, mundane, in-between life of Jesus, we are reminded that every moment lived inside our earthly bodies really is holy. That every meal cooked is a sacred offering, every floor swept an act of divine worship, and every conversation full of the Presence of God. 

That our bodies are good because Christ chose to come down in one just like ours. 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, physically embodied the very body of Christ. There in the darkness of her womb, God formed Him. He chose the body of a woman to bring forth the Savior of the world. Friend, our bodies are oh so good because the God of the Universe made it so.

God Has Come to Understand Us

There’s a song by Jess Ray called ‘Gloria, Gloria’, and the chorus of it has caught my attention this Advent season. It says, “Gloria, Gloria, God has come to understand us.”

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

Jesus didn’t have to, He wanted to become flesh and make His dwelling amongst a people, His people, who did not recognize Him or receive Him.

And then He chose to have His flesh pierced so He could continue dwelling within us; His Beloved. He dwells within our bodies, our flesh which He made and which He understands because He chose to wear it Himself for a time.

Let the miracle of that truth sink into your soul today, friend. That God came to understand you. He came to see what it was like to stink, to be an outcast, to be wounded, to be misunderstood, to be picked on and betrayed, and to lose. Part of living an embodied faith means living with the understanding that God embodied everything you have been through, what you’re facing now and all that you will encounter in this life. 

Because of that, you can embody it, too, knowing that God understands you better than you understand yourself. 

I know Advent comes to us all differently. For some of us, this season is accompanied by sorrow, grief, loss, and suffering. For others, it’s a time of stress, hurry, and chaos. Maybe for you, it’s a time of great joy and hope. Whatever you carry inside your body today, friend, know that Christ carried it first and because of that you can share in it with Him. 

He wants to share in it with you. 

There’s an invitation during Advent to name all that we embody — to sit in the dark with it, with the Light of the One whose Word became flesh and chose to dwell among us.

This is the Hope of Advent, the promise of a coming King, the Word made flesh – hyssop and honey to a hurting world. 

A Blessing for An Embodied Faith This Advent

So as we bustle around shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking Christmas dinners, and attending parties and meals with friends and family, may we do so with an embodied faith. 

May we live our ordinary lives remembering the human body of Christ and honoring our own bodies as Christ’s holy temple. 

May we hold inside us the miracle of a God Who chose to clothe Himself in the same flesh, bone, and blood that you and I both bear, doing so in a radical act of love, seeking to understand His own created people. 

And as you go from this place today, may you regard highly and sacredly the ordinary, human life that God has gifted you with, and may you live it inside your body, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead you faithfully. 

Before you go though, friend, allow the words of Psalm 139:13-16 to sink down deep into your soul and shape within you your own kind of embodied faith. 

“For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place,

    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.” (NIV)

Peace be with you this Advent season,

An Invitation to Be Still & Know this Advent Season

Does the Holiday season usually leave you hurried and harried? Are you longing to be hushed by the Holy this Advent season? If so, check out my new Advent devotional, Be Still & Know: Seeking Still Moments in God’s Presence this Advent Season, here:

Be Still & Know: Seeking Still Moments in God’s Presence This Advent Season, Advent Ebook, Devotional, Advent Devotional – Etsy

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