Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ.”
It’s a very Advent-y thought: God becoming flesh. But more than being an Advent thought, God intends it to be an ongoing reality for His material creation.
How? Through His people.
Here’s what I mean: God became flesh in Jesus. Jesus died and rose to take away our sins. His Spirit is breathed back into us through Baptism. We now literally have Jesus inside of us. We now are the material body of Christ in the material world of creation.
And what do we now do? Sit on the bench and run out the clock until we die and go to Heaven? Or is there something more in the meantime?
This past fall, I met Melanie and her husband, Don. They live in the northeast where I was leading a mission training at their church. Melanie shared with me how she had become a Christian as an adult. She said that as she looks back on her years growing up, she now sees that Jesus was already introducing Himself to her by the way people interacted with her.
I pointed out that her story is a revealing example of what the Bible means when it calls Christians “the body of Christ.” In other words, being the body of Christ is not a theological thought but a material reality for the people around us. Jesus is always present. But His presence, love and activity become real… become experiential… become tangible through His people.
When we, as the body of Jesus, live out the love of Jesus, we make the person of Jesus real to the people around us who need Him so badly. That is, indeed, very Advent-y.
I asked Melanie to tell us her story. And she graciously complied below. Enjoy! And Merry Advent!
Years ago, I stopped in at a church to make an emergency phone call, on my way home from work. The pastor spent some time talking with me, gave me a Bible (my first one) and invited me to a service. Not long after that, Pastor Bill baptized me into the Christian faith.
I’m so thankful that he took the time to care.
As I read God’s Word and listened to Pastor Bill’s sermons, I remembered people who had been a part of my life earlier on and, with amazement, recognized the love of Jesus in them.
She was a senior and I was a freshman in high school, when I joined the silks squad. I remember being so excited and eager to learn how to twirl my flag while marching with the school band. To join meant to practice twirling in sync with the other squad members, of course, and this was hard for me because I was shy and I felt intimidated by the older girls.
Cynthia picked up on my discomfort and came to my rescue. She was warm and friendly, and she went out of her way to talk with me and to help me feel welcome. She even gave me rides home from practice, a real honor being that I was a lowly freshman.
There was something noticeably different about Cynthia. For one thing, she listened to Amy Grant on her car radio. I’d never heard of her before, so Cynthia explained that she sang Christian music. Cynthia went to church, and I’d never heard any other teenagers talk about that before either. However, she didn’t talk too much about it. She seemed more interested in hearing what I had to say.
Cynthia was different in a lot of ways, but most importantly she treated me in a way that I knew I didn’t deserve to be treated. That was the key. That was the real Jesus connection for me. Family loves you because you are family, but this girl - why did she genuinely care for me?
When the squad came together for a weekend in the Poconos, Cynthia’s support enabled me to overcome my shyness and join in the fun. I didn’t even mind too much when the girls toothpasted and feathered me, my ‘initiation’ into the group, because I knew that Cynthia and I would laugh about it after. It meant so, so much to know that this trusted friend was right there with me.
Remembering Cynthia’s care made everything I was reading in my Bible and hearing in church services wonderfully real for me. She had made the love of Jesus real for me. I can’t remember the names of the other girls in my silks squad, but I will never forget Cynthia.
After a few years I moved on to a new job and a new church, and I lost touch with Pastor Bill. I hadn’t kept up with Cynthia either. I wonder if they have any idea what an impact their little acts of kindness have had in my life?
They were just living out their faith in Jesus each day, actively and intentionally loving the people that our Lord brought into their lives, according to His Master Plan. They couldn’t see that plan, and they didn’t need to. Their trust in it, and in Him, made it real for them.
And, some years later, for me.