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Advent Thought: Practicing Incarnation

December 8, 2011

In the course of completing my seminary work this fall I supplemented my required reading with a portion of Barbara Brown Taylor’s excellent book on spiritual practices, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. I have found myself picking this book up and re-reading portions of it at least a couple times a year. Her stories so often reward me with some new level of meaning or with an idea that begs further reflection. This time it was a chapter on incarnation (“The Practice of Wearing Skin”) which struck me. I thought I’d include a piece of it here for reflection, as we are in the middle of the Advent season.

The daily practice of incarnation-of being in the body with full confidence that God speaks the language of flesh-is to discover a pedagogy that is as old as the gospels. Why else did Jesus spend his last night on earth teaching his disciples to wash feet and share supper? With all the conceptual truths in the universe at his disposal, he did not give them something to think about together when he was gone. Instead, he gave them concrete things to do-specific ways of being together in their bodies-that would go on teaching them what they needed to know when he was no longer around to teach them himself. After he was gone, they would still have God’s Word, but that Word was going to need some new flesh.

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