I grew up in Texas, and one of my favorite Tex-Mex dishes is Chili con Carne. When it’s really good, it’s not just beans and tomatoes and ground beef. When it’s really good, there are chunks of steak or strips of brisket in the stew. You can see the lines of flesh. It’s Chili con Carne, chili with meat, chili with flesh.
When John explains Jesus’ birth, he gets all philosophical. He describes Jesus as “The Word” - the fundamental logic of the universe - and he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1:1, 14).
God became flesh. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe became human, became flesh. This is what Christians call the “incarnation” - God with flesh. God with meat.
Dios con Carne!
Look what happens when God gets flesh. Read Luke 1:26-55.
God becoming flesh in Jesus was the unstoppable seed of the redemption of the world.
God became flesh inside Mary’s womb, and everything changed. Dios con Carne changed the world.
Just pause for a minute and think about how small God with Flesh was at this point.
We aren’t sure how far along Mary was. Luke says, after the angel visited her, she hurried to the hill country in Judea to visit Elizabeth. How fast can you hurry on a donkey over hills on bad roads? I’m not sure. But we know Elizabeth was six months pregnant when the angel visited Mary and hadn’t given birth yet when Mary arrived. Let’s just say Mary was somewhere between 1 and 3 months pregnant.
If Mary had a fast donkey and she was about a month pregnant when she arrived to see Elizabeth, then Jesus would have been about the size of a blueberry. Jesus - the creator of the universe - would at this point have little paddles called “arm buds” and look somewhat like a newt.
If Mary walked into the Judean hills to see Elizabeth and got there just before Elizabeth gave birth, then Jesus would have grown all the way to the size of a lemon. He would actually look human by now.
So Jesus was somewhere between a blueberry newt and a tiny lemon baby. Should we compromise and call him a strawberry? Jesus, the kumquat? Anyway, God was already in the flesh enough to make Elizabeth’s baby kick like crazy. The baby prophet recognized the baby God and knew that the world had changed. Dios con Carne changes everything.
Here’s the part that blows me away every time I read Luke 1. Nothing had changed outside Mary’s womb. You couldn’t even see a baby bump yet. We’re measuring Jesus by fruit!
But in reality everything changed.
The Mighty One has done great things …
He has performed mighty deeds …
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
It looks like nothing has happened, but in reality everything has changed. Dios con Carne!
Jesus was tiny, but God becoming flesh in Jesus was the unstoppable seed of the redemption of the world. God becoming flesh upended the structure of society.
God got fleshy, and that changed everything. Dios con Carne!
This is what we look forward to during Advent, and this is what we celebrate at Christmas.
But this Dios con Carne is more than just a Christmas story. This is more than something to celebrate once a year. This is something for us to live out together. God wants to become real in us. God wants to carry forward the incarnation in us, to live in us, to show himself to the world through us. God wants to get fleshy again. God wants become flesh through us - in our lives - in our church - in our bodies. Not just an idea, not just a song, not just a Spirit that we pray to, not a belief system, but actual flesh. God wants to become real to the world through us. Dios con Carne!
God becoming flesh in Jesus was the unstoppable seed of the redemption of the world. Jesus becoming flesh in us is the unstoppable seed of the redemption of our world.
We are tiny - as individuals and as a church. We are not even a blip on the global radar. But God wants to become flesh through us. God wants to incarnate us. God wants to become real to the world through us. And if God gets real in our flesh, that will be the unstoppable seed for the redemption and healing of our community. God will cultivate his wholeness all over our broken world.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole concept of incarnation this fall. Let me suggest three ways we can choose more incarnation in our lives. These are three choices we all make that enable God to get more fleshy among us.
1. We choose imitation over information.
Our world is addicted to information. We are living in the information age, and we think that information will cure all that ails us. If we can just get the right information, if we can just learn the right things, if we can just read the right book or go to the right class or do another Bible study or write another blog, then everything will be OK.
I’m reading a fantastic book called, Subterranean by Dan White Jr. He breaks down lots of the ways church has become dysfunctional, and I was undone with his chapter on information. He says, “The modern church has become a colossal information Pez dispenser. … Our learning methods are generating legions of people stuffed to the gills with information but who are ironically not affected by the information they carry” (43). We get our candy coated sermons and songs once a week, but we aren’t actually living it out. There is no meat.
I’ll give you an example of how I’m making this choice. I was accepted into a very demanding PhD program that would require me to be gone 16 weekends a year, but I’m turning it down because it would de-flesh me. I want to learn about leadership but this program would extract me from the community where I lead. I would get lots of information about leadership, but I wouldn’t actually be imitating Jesus as a leader. God is calling me to go deeper here for now. I’ll probably still do a PhD, but I’ll find one that allows me to focus on imitating Jesus in the flesh rather than putting information in my head.
Most of us need less information and more imitation, less study and more practice. How is God calling you to put into practice what you already know? How is God calling you to actually start following Jesus instead of just talking about it?
Be a Christian with flesh - con carne!
When God gets flesh in our daily lives, that will change our world. Dios con Carne changes everything.
2. We choose community over isolation.
A few weeks ago Josh Herndon, the missionary heading to Greece, said, “No one does missions alone.” That’s just as true for us as it is him. No one follows Jesus alone.
I know we can pray and read our Bibles and get new information by ourselves, but we can’t actually follow Jesus by ourselves. We can’t actually live a life like the life Jesus lived by ourselves. Jesus lived in deep community with others. He had a few close friends, a group of disciples, and a wide circle of support. We can’t hope to be fleshy Christians without our flesh touching other flesh. We can’t hope to have God live in our flesh if we spend most of our time by ourselves in our work or home. We have to hug and cook together and play together and eat together and pray together and serve together and cry together.
God takes on flesh in our community relationships, not just in our own individual bodies. When was the last time you were inside someone else’s house? When was the last time you shared a meal with someone from church - not counting potlucks? When was the last time you helped someone with a project at their house? God in flesh means getting our flesh off our solitary hideaway couches and in the game with people around us. Be a Christian with flesh - con carne!
Choose community over isolation, and God will take on flesh in our lives together, not just in our ideas together, and that will change our world. Dios con Carne changes everything.
3. We choose to be intentional not accidental.
I talked to four different people in the past week who feel completely overwhelmed with their lives. They have so many commitments that they don’t know what to do. They know they can’t do all of them well, but they don’t know which ones to stop. I see this over and over again.
I ask, “How is it that you are doing this and this and this and this… and this and this … and this?”
They usually say, “It just kind of happened. Each one seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Over-commitment is easily in the top three fundamental struggles for Christians in the modern world. I’ve seen it all over America, and I saw it in Korea too. Activities pile up, and suddenly we’re stuck in the chains of our own life and we don’t know how to get out.
Then, we come to church, and we hear our pastor talk about living incarnationally and letting God become real in our flesh, and we just want to punch him in the face because we can’t take even … one … more … thing.
You can’t take one more thing. You can’t even handle all the things you have now.
That’s my point.
Being a Christian in the flesh is really more about putting things down than picking things up. Letting God live in your flesh is really about doing a few things well and with more joy than it is about adding one more load to your burden.
This Christmas season put all your things down, and ask God what he wants you to pick back up. Put down all the things in life you’ve accidentally accumulated. Think with God about a life full of God, and then pick up the things that let God live in your flesh, and that will change our world. Dios con Carne changes everything.
Let’s pause to think about some key questions:
What kind of life are living?
What kind of life do you want to live?
Be intentional not accidental.
Choose imitation over information. Actually follow Jesus; don’t just learn about Jesus.
Choose community over isolation. Put flesh to your relationships.
Be intentional not accidental, and God will become real in our flesh.
Live a life with flesh. Be a Christian with flesh. Let God become real in your real life. Dios con Carne will change us and change our world.