By Elaine Swigart
Community Presbyterian Church
As I write this, it is New Year’s Eve. The only party I will attend is one with three small grandchildren who come to our house every New Year’s Eve to give their parents a little break. We will bake cookies, make peanut butter play dough (mix honey, peanut butter and dry milk until pliable), read some stories together, drink sparkling cider and undoubtedly fall asleep before midnight.
Why the big deal about the turn of the year? Isn’t tomorrow just another day, an artificial start to an artificially decided calendar? Our need of time is one of the things that differentiates us from God. We seem to need time to give order to our days, months, years, decades and even our millennia. God lives in timelessness – in fact, lives outside of time and space. And yet, miraculously, God lives in our space and time. As the psalmist says, “Where can I go from your spirit and where can I flee from your presence.” God is both imminent (with us) and transcendent (beyond us.)
That is what we recently celebrated with the nativity of Jesus – God breaking into our time and space in a way that we could understand. God broke the boundaries of infinity. As the Gospel of John so beautifully reads, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Comprehending God is almost impossible; comprehending Jesus is much easier. He was indeed, God with us.
I am reminded of the little child who was afraid of the dark and asked Mommy to stay with her. The mother said, “You have your night light, your teddy bear and you have Jesus right beside you.”
“But,” said the little girl, “I want someone with skin on.”
That is what we all want, someone with skin on. Jesus was God with skin on. But even Jesus gave up the skin to be with God and hold a place for us. I think the real miracle, not of Christmas, but Easter is that we are now allowed to become the Christ with skin on to others. For Christians, Christmas is not the central holiday (holy day), but a wonderful celebratory day when we remember that love broke into our world in an incredible way. For us, the holiest day is Easter toward which we look with expectation every year at this time as our calendar leads us to Lent, Holy Week and the resurrection. For us, it is not enough that Christ came, but that he died, rose and lives within each of us that call upon his name. I realize that if timelessness is hard to fathom, this one is certainly a leap of faith.
But, because as Christians we believe that we always have Christ with us, we also believe as Jesus told us, “Greater things than I do, you will do because I go to God.” As the scriptures further say, “We become the aroma of Christ; we are clothed with Christ; we are Christ to others, and whatever we do to any of God’s children we do to Christ.” So we are both Christ to others and serve the Christ in others.
We have him now in spirit – in fact having the spirit of Christ is what being a Christian is all about. We give up putting ourselves first and put the spirit of Christ as the foundation of who we are. So, it is the Christ in us who works for good in the world.
So here we are – beginning a new year, perhaps a new decade (depending upon whom you believe.) But, what we really need to do is enter into the timelessness of God – the eternity of God – and learn to live in it right now. As we enter into this New Year, may each of us called Christian give off the aroma of Christ to a weary world. May each of us be clothed with Christ and be a visible Christ to the lonely, the hungry, the poor, the needy and those who do not know or do not understand what the love of God in Christ really is.
We can be Christ with skin on if we will just take the time.