Valuable flesh

John 1:14 - And the Word became flesh and lived among us ...

The meaning and reality of the Incarnation are woven into so many aspects of our faith and life. One of the impacts of God taking on our own flesh is how it raises the value of our own flesh. Not only does the Incarnation support the glory of being stamped with the image of God, in the Incarnation we see that God came to be among us because of God's deep love for us and desire to act on behalf of those with infinite value to God. God cares about us, embraces, rescues, and comes intimately and personally close to us.

The theologian, pastor, and writer Will Willimon (Incarnation), proposes that the Incarnation implies that embracing God's truth is about more than intellectual assent. It's personal. It's embodied. He says, "In the Incarnation, God has stood in solidarity with each human life, even the most wretched life in the worst of situations, and shouted for all the world to hear, "Mine!"

In my work as a spiritual director I'm often struck by how hard it is for folks to believe their value, to embrace their own dignity, the dignity of being an image bearer of God. The dignity not of doing but of being. Bestselling author, Cole Aurthur Riley (This Here Flesh), says she disagrees with those who say we bear the image of God only, or primarily, by living out our faith in our labor. "The thought is reductive...Our dignity may involve our doing, but it is foremost in our very being - our tears and emotions, our bodies lying in the grass, our scabs healing."

As I prepared for certification in spiritual direction, I came across an image in one of my readings that has not left me. The scene is the birth of a child and the beauty of what unfolds speaks to the dignity and value of being.

In the late 19th century a man by the name of Alexander Carmichael, went about collecting Gaelic hymns and stories of old from all around Scotland. This one was shared by a "knee-woman" or what we would now call a mid-wife about a ritual practiced at the time called, "birth baptism." This is what she shared:

When the image of the God of life is born into the
world I put three little drops of water on the child's forehead. I put the
first little drop in the name of the Father, and the watching-women say
Amen. I put the second little drop in the name of the Son, and the
watching-women say Amen. I put the third little drop in the name of
the Spirit, and the watching-women say Amen. And I beseech the Holy
Three to lave and to bathe the child and to preserve it to Themselves.
And the watching-women say Amen. All the people in the house are
raising their voices with the watching-women, giving witness that the
child has been committed to the blessed Trinity. By the Book itself !
ear has never heard music more beautiful than the music of the watching-
women when they are consecrating the seed of man and committing him
to the great God of life. No seed ... of the world's people can lift away the happy tranquil little
sleeper for whom is made the beneficent prayer of the baptism ; eye
cannot lie on him, envy cannot lie on him, malice cannot lie on him ;
the two arms of the mild Mary of grace and the two arms of gentle Christ
are to free him, shielding and surrounding and succouring the joyous
little sleeper of the baptism.

I love this so much. I love the watching-women. I love the community gathered around this new life to give praise to the Triune God. I love the dignity and value of the child acknowledged before the child is able to "do" a single thing. I love everything about this stunning consecration scene and regret it's not done today. By the way, the church baptism usually happened about a week later.

Ok. Time to wrap this up.

May the great God of life enable you to know your worth and may you hear echoes of the watching-women say - Amen.