Put Skin On It

Christmas 2A – Put Skin on It

John 1:10-18

January 1-2, 2010

“The Word became flesh and lived among us.”

And at that moment, God became human.

God became one of us.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story[i] of the young boy who was afraid of the dark.

He was convinced that there were monsters living under his bed and in his closet.

His parents would pray with him at night

asking God to protect him, but still,

night after night he would wind up in bed with them.

One night his father said, “You don’t have to be afraid.

God will be here in your room with you.”

The little boy answered, “I was hoping for someone with skin.”

We smile…but I imagine all of us at times have been

wishing for a God with more skin.

It may not be because we’re afraid of monsters in the closet,

but there are plenty of times  when we lie awake in the dark for other reasons.

Perhaps at times like this, we pray and recall God’s promise to always be with us,

and yet still we wish for a God with more skin.

That is when we turn to John’s gospel,

“The Word became flesh and lived among us.”

We have a God with skin.

Martin Luther once said that he was glad that God did not choose to

come to earth as an angel but as a human.[ii]

God didn’t choose a holy heavenly being,

but instead he chose one of  his lowly creatures.

God chose to become a creature who is prone to sin.

God chose a fickle human being, prone to be plagued with fears and doubts;

prone to suffer grief and loss;

and also prone to express joy and love.

God chose to put on skin – and not wings.

What a gift to us that choice was!

God is one who knows fears and doubts just like we do;

who knows grief and loss just like we do;

who knows joy and love just like we do.

And yet, because God chose to come to earth as a baby and not as an angel, the gospel says,

the world did not know him.

Catch the irony in these verses,

God was in the world; the very world which came into being by God;

and yet the world did not know who he was.

God was in the world, walking and talking among the very people whom he created

and yet his own people did not recognize him.

There was a department store in the town where I grew up called England Brothers.

It was the only department store in town.

It’s was the place in town to buy a dress for the prom,

a suit for an interview, a gift for a friend,

or to stand in line to see Robert the talking Reindeer and Santa Claus.

When people said they were going downtown,

England Brothers was usually the main stop.

I think I was about five years old and waiting with my grandmother one day

for my mother to return from some other part of the store.

We were standing where we always waited – on the first floor by the candy counter.                     An elderly man, dressed in a suit and tie walked towards us, leaned down to me and asked,

“Would you like a lollipop?”

He then reached up to the counter to a jar of lollipops

and handed one to me.

I was alarmed – on many fronts.

First of all, he was stranger,

and I had been taught well not to talk to strangers and certainly not take candy from strangers.

Secondly, he was stealing a lollipop and giving it to me!

I loved lollipops – especially the kind they used to have at England Brothers,

but I shook my head and said, “No thank you.”

The man recognized my discomfort.

He smiled and asked, “Do you know who I am?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “I’m Mr. England.  This is my store.”

This was his store!

He was walking and talking to people in his own store,

dressed like one of us, an ordinary shopper,

offering me a gift he knew I’d enjoy from his store,

but because I didn’t know him, I didn’t accept the gift.

God was in the world.  Walking and talking among the people he created.

And because world did not know him, the world didn’t accept the gift.

God is still in the world.

And yet  many in the world do not know him.

Many still struggle against their own monsters in the dark, wishing for a God with more skin.

There was a CNN headline which attracted my attention this week,

It was “More Americans Plan to Pray than Party for New Year’s.”[iii]

According to a Rasmussen Report survey,

68% of Americans planned to say a prayer on New Year’s

while only 21% planned to attend a New Year’s Eve party.

Why?

The world prays for God’s visible presence in the New Year –

the world in loneliness, fear, and grief, longs for a God with skin.

Of course, we know where God’s skin is now –

God’s skin is embodied in you and me.

So if the world is calling for a God with more skin,

the world is calling for us to put on some skin –

to “put on Christ” (Rom 13:14) as the apostle Paul says for the sake of the world.

When the world calls for God to put some skin on and answer

its plea for peace in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, and North Korea–

the world calls for us to put on Christ and work for peace.

When the world calls for God to put some skin on and answer

its plea for an end to hunger and homelessness,

the world calls for us to put on Christ and help end hunger and homelessness.

When the world calls for God to put some skin on and answer

its plea for love and compassion,

the world calls for us to put on Christ and be love and compassion.

The world calls not for an angel with wings –

but for us mere humans with skin.

Amen.

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