Though many have already abandoned their trees and trimmings, today we mark the last day of Christmas 2012-13. It is the end of the feast of the incarnation, tomorrow is Epiphany, and then we await Lent, Easter, and Pentacost and the rest of the new church year. Today it is pertinent to think on what it means for the church that Christ was incarnated, placed in a body, as we are. This placement in the church calendar at the beginning of the year reminds us that Jesus still has a physical incarnation on the earth – the church. The world can see and hear him now insofar as we use our bodies to make him present. I am increasingly coming to understand this concept of the body of Christ as being one primarily of social justice, of being the good we wish to be, of “overcoming evil with good.”
There is a very famous quote by St Teresa of Avila which powerfully captures this imperative:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,no hands but yours,no feet but yours,yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
is to look out to the earth,
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.
I note that Teresa does not say “you are his mouth to condemn,” or “his hand to punish.” Christ came to transform us, and our embodiment should therefore be transformative of the world. But how?
We are to overcome evil by being good. Paul says to the Romans (12:21): “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is something which I’ve been deeply mulling over the Christmas season this year. The implications are vast and deep, and some of them I find deeply convicting, personally and corporately. It is still something which I need time to internalize properly, but several lines of thought keep recurring in my mind: social justice, nonviolent resistance, concern for the rights of others, poverty.
Listed as such, rather banal ideas for the start of 2013. But what keeps haunting me are the implications for the details, when taken seriously.
+ It means we need to resist violence with peace, perhaps or even especially when it is dangerous to do so.
+ It means resisting exploitation with fairness, even if we lose out.
+ It means resisting oppression with empowerment, even if it means we are exploited.
+ It means resisting the corruption of power with weakness, even if power seems too powerful.
The list would go on ad infinitum.
In short, I want to mark the end of Christmas by pondering how the Incarnation should live on in me.