These next few weeks will soon start the holiday whirlwind. I know many people are in the midst of it already, with travel planning, special school events, family obligations and household preparations. The holidays always come packed with extras. Extra things to see, and touch and taste and do and hear. I like the holidays because they become a feast for our senses. Decorations draw our eyes, music is everywhere, and special foods abound. Thinking of the 5 senses, there is always a special engagement of them during the holiday season. It reminds me to wonder what did Jesus see, hear, taste, touch or smell? Granted Jesus celebrated different holidays, but I know the holidays Jesus celebrated came with their own tastes, smells, sounds and feelings.
Sometimes we want to make faith about something that we do with our souls or our minds. That faith can in some way transcend the body, or that the body is bad or something to be conquered. That is simply not true. We are all souls with bodies. We have 5 senses. Jesus had 5 senses. Christmas is the season we celebrate the incarnation of Christ. We celebrate when God came to earth in a human body, born as a human, to live as a human, die as a human, and rise as a human. I have to think, with this as our central belief in Christianity, that God cares deeply about human bodies. Much of what Jesus teaches has to do with how we honor someone in bodily need. In Matthew 25 Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me something to drink, naked and you gave me clothing, sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me. They answered him, ‘Lord, when was it we saw you hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison?’ Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me”. Humans matter to God, how we treat other people, how we respect or don’t respect their bodies matters to God. How we meet needs or not, matters to God. We are appalled by stories of grave physical abuse, and we celebrate stories of meeting great needs, and I think this is because to our core, we know how others’ bodies are treated is a reflection of how we treat God.
The church is the body of Christ. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. We do that in a variety of ways. I hope this holiday season we pay special attention to the needs of the body. Who needs rest? Who needs food? Who needs shelter? Because our faith is something to be lived, out in public. The simplest and perhaps most profound way to do that is to meet people where there are, to meet their needs with grace, and in doing so, honor them as we would the Christ child.
May this holiday season be one of encountering Christ in other people.