In this season of Advent, I would like to reflect in a new and more intimate way upon the coming of Christ — God in the flesh — among us here. The best place to start, for the first Sunday of Advent, is with the beginning: The Word was made flesh.
Every living creature is of flesh: organic, genetic structures that allow for growth, the absorption of nutrients, and sustained life. From viruses to butterflies, from violets to grizzly bears, from every fish in the sea to every person you see, every lifeform is a fleshly reality.
Only the One True, Living God is independent of flesh. Nothing is more powerfully and relentlessly alive than God, and God eternally is, without any physical size, shape, or structure. The Divine Creator is invisible, intangible, and immortal, infinitely beyond the need of created matter, of material things such as cells and genes.
God doesn’t have flesh. God doesn’t have DNA.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God….
And the Word was made flesh.John 1: 1, 14
Jesus of Nazareth had His mother’s deep brown eyes and His grandfather’s chin. On the banks of the Jordan River, the very observant among those baptized alongside Jesus may have noticed that He and His cousin, John, had similar hairlines and feet.
All of the inherited attributes of Jesus were His from the very beginning of His life, from the moment when He, the Divine Word of God, was made flesh. His DNA, the genetic structure of His body, was laid out at the time of His conception, when His Virgin Mother willingly consented to God’s will for her and said “yes” to the life of her son. His life, His fully human life, began in her womb when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the biological part of her that was made to give to the genetic structure of another received the spark of life.
And God became incarnate:
God came to us in the flesh, a zygote, with His own genetic structure, His own cells dividing and multiplying as He grew. Within the secret sanctity of His mother’s womb, Christ’s miniscule blastocyst body floated rather helplessly down the fallopian tube, dependent upon the lining of her uterus to catch hold so that He wouldn’t drift by and be lost. Caught up safely, He nestled in, seeking shelter and nourishment for continued survival and growth.
Does it seem strange to read about the Savior of the World and His Blessed Mother in this way? It’s certainly not something that we are used to reading or even thinking about. To elevate the divine pregnancy to an extremely lofty level is very reasonable, as well as justly appropriate in many ways. But to forget, ignore, or even dismiss the very human reality of this profoundly holy pregnancy is to risk losing the vital understanding of Christ’s very real humanity – His intimate union and solidarity with each and every one of us.
Like us, the Savior of the World was once profoundly little, smaller in size than the period in this sentence.Tweet
If we are truly to believe in Jesus Christ, then we are called to know Him. We are called to meet Him with the best of our understanding from His very beginning. Our understanding as creatures is extremely limited, so we cannot peer into eternity in order to look at God before the creation of time and space and “see” the full divinity of Christ, who is The Divine Word. This is beyond the grasp of our intellect, our understanding, or even our imagination. The full humanity of Christ, however, is not beyond our grasp, because His human grasp is our own.
Do your hands look like the hands of somebody in your family? Because of your inherited genetic structure, chances are that they do. So did Christ’s. The hands that grasped the little girl up from her deathbed, that smeared mud on the eyes of the blind man to restore his sight, and that broke bread to feed the multitude were hands determined in shape and texture through His mother’s DNA when the Word was made flesh in her womb.
The Savior predicted by the ancient prophets, the longed-for Hope of Israel and of all humankind, assumed human life with physical flesh, form, and senses — a throat to proclaim good news, legs to march to Calvary, and a heart to burst open with both human and divine love. To do this, God came down to become enfleshed, first fully human and fully divine while physically smaller than a mustard seed.
A prayer for the First Sunday of Advent, while lighting the Prophets’ candle, symbolizing hope:
Lord Jesus, in the first moment of Your fully human life, You were as hidden from sight as You have been from all eternity in the fullness of Your divinity. Not even Your Holy Mother could see You or feel You. There are times in my life when I may feel that I am utterly alone, unnoticed, unrecognized, and without hope. Please remind me, in all of Your kind and gentle ways, that I am never without hope because I am never without You.
Completely dependent as You were upon one of Your own creatures, You did not deem such smallness, such limitations, such neediness as beneath You in the fullness of Your Divine Majesty. Fully God, You were also, in that finite and fragile state of Your body, fully human — like me. Help me to remember that You, who are mighty and glorious, first took flesh in the tiniest state of humanity and were not afraid. Help me to be little and brave like You so that I may continue to grow and develop in Your love. May I never lose sight of the hope that is You.
Special Note: My book, It’s Good to Be Here, further explores the intimate union that God in the flesh shares with each and every one of us by reflecting upon Christ’s little life and my own. Now available in paperback, my book about the sacred wonder of being human is available for purchase at SophiaInstitute.com/products. Thank you for reflecting with me!
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.