As I read scripture, I'm struck by the persistent theme of God's people continually asking God to be near them and awed by the ways God chooses to respond. Finally, God-ever mysterious-shows up in a backwater town, occupied by a violent empire, as a baby.
For this, the third year of my seminary program, I'm interning at Thank God for Sex, an organization committed to a community approach to healing religious sexual shame. One of the nasty myths we're combating is the notion that flesh is evil and we need to practice hypervigilance in a never-ending battle against our bodies' natural impulses-our sexuality.
But Jesus didn't hate bodies. First of all, God makes humans embodied and called the entirety of the created order very good. Secondly, God generally operates in a kind of body-optional existence, and in Jesus, God opts in.
The last supper image pictured here is a mural behind the pulpit of the church I attended in Papua, Indonesia, during my service year with the Mennonite Central Committee. It's not a picture of Jerusalem-it's Jesus in Papuans own home, the lowland forest of Papua, nestled into the foot of the mountains. It includes all kinds of Papuan residents-different tribes from the island, but also colonists and occupiers. There are women, men, and gender-ambiguous folks. And you're there too, in the seat that's been left empty.
Immanuel is with us, eats with us, and even feeds us with his own body. This-in his culture that is almost as purity-obsessed as our modern Christianity can be. He heals with touch even though a distant thought or word would suffice-even though it will discredit him in the eyes of purists. He makes a point to feed people and wash their bodies. He invites touch from a woman who steps outside her social boundaries to bathe his body in oil and tears and dry him with her hair.
I suppose I could Google why our elections take place in November, but instead I prefer to imagine it's a divine intervention that serves to elevate our awareness of our need for God to BE HERE NOW PLEASE BECAUSE I CANNOT EVEN WITH THIS GARBAGE. It's a reminder for Advent that will last us all year long.
Bodies are collateral damage in the vitriol of U.S. politics. Not unlike Jesus' culture that was concerned with who's in and who's out, we are either actively in the process of legislating or threatening to legislate the dehumanization of our bodies and others. Rights to health care, marriage, citizenship and residency, faith, and reproductivity make effective weapons because they're so intimately critical to our personhoods and our humanity.
We believe in a God who made Godself vulnerable to hunger, exhaustion, and death just to be near us in a world rife with uncertainty and violence. A God who actively chose to get dressed in human flesh in order to walk up to us, treed in a crowd, to say, "Come down from that tree-I'm coming to your house for dinner."
Come, Immanuel, and show us your way. Maybe after we eat?
Annie Mesaros, '09 Colleague, is a theologian and writer in Seattle, working on her MDiv at The Seattle School. You can read more of her musings at anniemesaros.com or by following her dog on Instagram @twmesaros.