The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Thinking of Jesus' humanity

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God (John 1:1).

Notice that the word "word" is wrapped in the swaddling clothes of the lowercase. Probably I was in catechism class when I first learned that this "word" means Jesus. And so I never failed to faithfully capitalize it. Out of the same respect, I thought more of Jesus' deity than I did of his humanity. And thereby I messed up for years what the whole point of Christmas really is.

Our congregation's "Sunday Stories" class is discussing James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues. Sonny's older brother speaks the story. He is torn by his little brother's inability to shake his drug addiction. Before she died, their mother asked her older son not to blame his little brother but to just be present with him. Our humanity finds us all in a world of pain — but new life seeps in. There comes a time that big brother sensed such a closeness to Sonny that his little daughter Gracie felt close to him again as well.

I am thinking of my little brother, Dave, who lies mute and paralyzed as a result of a stroke. And my Marilyn fighting Alzheimer's every day. Confusion and sadness — but her smile still breaks out and lights the world. She's happy more often than she's sad.

I'm thinking this struggle is the swaddling clothing that we wear as our humanness.

Our world is shaken by deadly religious extremism. When we presume that we know all things with certainty, we act as if we were gods ourselves. We have not valued humanity as we ought, ours or Jesus', and the whole world is out of joint.

Jesus is called "word" because words are weak and human. "Take my word for it," we say. In the absence of something strong both sides have to use faith. Trust. We are stuck with weak words — but that human thing can become mysteriously large. Thank God. 


Edgar Zelle

Edgar Zelle

Posted at 12:33 am (U.S. Eastern) 12/21/2010

It is in Jesus' humanity that we discover God's presence among us.  I appreciate your article.


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