And the Word became flesh and lived among us ... full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
A more literal meaning of this familiar phrase from John's Christmas Gospel would be: "God, the eternal Word, presses the flesh and pitches a tent in our midst."
In the days leading up to an important election, the image of "pressing the flesh" is a familiar one as we follow political candidates scurrying across the land in search of votes and victory. Still, to imagine the Creator of the universe taking on human form and reaching out to touch each one of us is startling and surprising.
The original New Testament Greek word for flesh is sarx, blunt and harsh-sounding. Used by Paul as well as John, it reminds us that being flesh-and-blood humans is no easy assignment. In our sarx-ness we grow hungry and may go unfed, we become weary and may not find sufficient rest. As accidents, illness or the aging process brings pain and deterioration, we suffer.
Finally, we sarx-creatures die and the flesh is no more, as the prophet Isaiah declared in his unflinching pronouncement: "All people are grass. ... The grass withers, the flower fades ...." (Isaiah 40:6-7).
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