Giftwrapping God

Our Christmas celebrations try to hide the nakedness of the Incarnation.

We wreathe our doors with juniper and if holly, deck our shrubs with tiny white lights and our living rooms with spruce trees, candles, Nativity scenes. We dress ourselves for Christmas: she sporting a cotton sweater with stars and snowflakes, he wearing a candy-caned tie, baby kicking green and red socks with tiny bells.

Ironic, all of this decking, when you consider that the Christmas movement of God is away from glitter and glory. To get ready for Christmas, God undressed.

God stripped off his finery and appeared—how embarrassing—naked on the day he was born. God rips off medals of rank, puts aside titles, honors, and talents, and appears in his birthday suit. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity. In the Incarnation, things heavenly and earthly are gathered into one: one in the naked flesh and folds of God.

Do we get Santa Claus and God mixed up? We think of a portly God with a long white beard, well covered in red flannel and fur. It's part of our great project—clothing God—making him as respectable as we are. No shirt, no shoes, no service, we tell him. Dressing God is, for many, a compulsive hobby.

God deserves the best-dressed celebrity award, as we have robed God not only in Santa suits, but in fine marble, gilt, marvelous mosaic. Let God be anything but naked. Yes, I want that cloth right there: Thank you, sculptors, for helping God where he could not help himself, covering God's bare flesh and unprotected love.

When the gospel was first preached, Romans laughed at the idea of a god become flesh. Oh, sure, a god might have a fling with a mortal woman and then disappear to better realms. But you know your side of the tracks, and the gods know theirs. God become flesh—hilarious! ...

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