I am a Christian who puts high emphasis on the incarnation — the belief that Jesus Christ, as the second person of the trinity, became human.
For me, Jesus is God in the flesh. This is important for me because I can’t relate very well to an infinite being that resides somewhere in heaven. However, Jesus, the man who weeps with his friends Mary and Martha at the death of their brother, is quite tangible for me.
One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel. The name means “God is with us.” When Jesus was in the middle of his earthly ministry, I am sure that his followers were keenly aware that God, indeed, was with them. But, after his death and resurrection, Jesus had to eventually return to heaven.
My church celebrates his return to heaven on the sixth Thursday after Easter. We call is the Feast Day of the Ascension. My belief is that, now that Jesus has ascended, it is the job of the universal church, what is often referred to as the body of Christ, to take on the responsibility of being Christ in the world.
My job as a follower of Jesus is to be his hands and feet and to continue what God started with the incarnation. I do not by any means think that I can do this by myself. It takes the entire body of Christ working together, continuing in Jesus’ earthly ministries of healing, feeding, teaching, clothing and loving others in order for his divine impact to be felt by the entire world.
This is what I would describe as incarnational ministry. Because incarnational ministry requires flesh in the same way that Christ became flesh, I believe that my ministries have to be hands-on, face-to-face interactions with people in my local community.
Consequently, it is very important to me that I learn the names of the people I serve. I try to remember their backgrounds and whom they have for family. I look for common ground and, hopefully, a friendship forms. And, even though I don’t talk about it as much as my evangelical brothers and sisters would like, I think that through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, friendships formed in Christ’s name lead to salvation. But, before my friendship with Christ could begin, Jesus had to come physically into the world.
On Tuesday night and Wednesday we will be celebrating the method God chose to bring Jesus into the world — his birth. We will be remembering that Jesus became flesh, starting in the way that all humans do.
“And he became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Bernie Lindley is vicar of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 401 Fir St., Brookings. For information about services, call 541-469-3314 or visit http://www.sttimothyepiscopal.org.