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The Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph.D.

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The Gift of Love

Posted: 12/23/11 04:14 PM ET

I was a child with a vivid imagination. I believed in everything. Lions and tigers and bears and tin woodmen who could sing, and flying monkeys who could talk. Little girls who could click their heels and find their way home. A poor young woman whose fairy godmother could change her wardrobe and her life. A prince who finds her with a glass slipper that only she fits. A scrawny Christmas tree that could, with a little love, become a full gorgeous lit-up and shiny symbol, and a boy named Charlie Brown who, with a little love, could be loved -- even by Lucy. I believed a little drummer boy could play his drum for the baby-King, and that was a great gift indeed.

I believed in everything: the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Great Pumpkin. I believed in my parents' ability to protect me from harm, and I believed in their belief in me. "You can do anything, be anything that you want to be, because we love you, and God loves you." This was something a child could believe in. Mom and Dad loved me, without question, which meant God loved me, too.

When we would make our way each Christmas through the snow to our little church around the corner, I believed in the stories being told. I believed in the magic of the Magi who travelled, guided by a star, to visit a child-King who would change their world, change the whole world. I believed the child was in a manger even though I did not quite know what that meant. I understood that there were animals around, even when I did not know what it meant when the song said, "The cattle are lowing; the poor baby wakes..." I believed this little baby did not cry, like the hymn said.

Who was this baby, who would not cry, even in the cold barn? Mom and Dad said, "God loved us enough to send God's child into the world." I admit to being confused as a little person about how God was both sending the Son and being the Son. But it was really clear, even to my child-mind that a great Love was the reason for the coming, for the giving of the child, for the birth. As each of my three little brothers was born, two at Christmastime, I had living examples of love being the reason for birth.

It is my adult self that is deeply moved by the way John tells the story in his Gospel. He skips angels and shepherds and says, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us." By some wonderful magic or miracle, the very Word of God, the same one that spoke power and created the universe with "Let there be --" became flesh, took on human form, and came to be with us. This speaks SO much to me.

I think about all of the words in Scripture, believed by people both ancient and modern, and that as the people live what they believe, the Word becomes flesh, puts on flesh.

I think about the words of prophets like Isaiah and Mary and Gandhi and Martin, and I really believe that their words and the Word puts on flesh and lives among us as we are inspired to do great and compassionate and loving things to and for one another. The Word becomes flesh when our souls are healed and when we seek to heal the world.

The Word becomes flesh when a mother throws herself in the way of a moving tank to save her child. The Word becomes flesh when a soldier throws himself on a grenade to save his friends. The Word becomes flesh when some young people who really do have a place to live decide to take up residence in a park to highlight the need for economic justice in our nation. It takes on flesh when congregations make their basements available for occupations, and when millionaires volunteer to be taxed at higher rates, and when ordinary average citizens give generously to soup kitchens and food pantries so the people of God can eat.

Recently, the Word put on flesh -- the word of God that says "Feed my sheep" became flesh -- when Renee and Kele, two women in my congregation who recently married, decided to open a food pantry right in their Brooklyn apartment. Oh, how the Word becomes flesh in our kindness! The Word became flesh when the Collegiate Church of New York made a grant to keep a Muslim food pantry open. When the Word becomes flesh, it can often leap over words like "no" and "we can't." When the Word becomes flesh, it does not care about faith or creed or nationality or ethnicity. All flesh can be the Word; all LOVING flesh IS the Word.

I have always had a vivid imagination. Now, I imagine a healed world, one in which clean water, food, shelter, clothing, a living wage, and a safe place to learn and live and grow is a reality for all peoples. I imagine a world with no war, no struggles about territory, and no suffering. I imagine, now, a world in which all of the people, no matter how they name God, or even if they name no God at all, understand that the most important Word is Love, and that when we truly love one another, each of us will have enough.

I imagine -- in fact I KNOW -- that we are LOVE made flesh. That is the gift each of us has to give.