I have a feeling that they really just didn’t know what to do with the thing after Halloween. For where do you store a twelve-foot skeleton with menacing eyes that glow at night, crouching like an ancient T-rex just ready to pounce on its next prey?
Fortunately, with a looming holiday just around the corner, the owners of that lawn attraction had another idea. So they stuck a Santa cap on the skull, put a stocking in its bony hands, and added a Christmas tree beside it. Voila! Happy Holidays!
As creepy as it sounds, however, that still rather stark lawn decoration may indeed remind us of an essential truth about Christmas. For our seasonal celebrations are not really about Santa, of course, or those winter wonderlands full of sleigh rides and snowfalls, but about the Incarnation, a word that comes from a Latin term quit literally meaning “flesh.” (Think chili con carne, or chili “with meat.”)
For centuries theologians have used that phrase to refer to the embodiment of God in the person of Christ. There’s a simpler way to think of it, however. For it’s said that a little boy, frightened one night by a thunderstorm, called out to his father and asked him to come to his bedroom because he was scared. His father, already nicely settled into his own bed, called back, “It’s okay, buddy. God is with you in that room right now. Go back to sleep.” And after a moment of silence, the boy called out once more, saying simply, “Dad, right now I need someone with skin on!”
And I suspect that most of us could relate to what that boy was saying. For when we too are frightened or hurt or anxious, we don’t really need a theological concept to comfort us as much as we want someone in person to sit beside us, kiss our boo-boos, and remind us we are not alone in this sometimes-scary world.
Perhaps that’s why when he wished to sum up the Christmas story, the apostle John proclaimed that “the Word became flesh,” and, as Eugene Peterson has so wonderfully expressed it, “moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1.14) For in Jesus we find a God who was both physically real and even touchable, not just a skeletal framework but a fully embodied savior who stands ready to stand with you and me.
What’s more, our calling as Christians is to continue the mission of Christ to show love to those around us, as well, to any and all who may need to see God with some skin on. For what else could it mean to be the Body of Christ, as the Church is called, but to be the embodiment of all He came to do?
Forget the turkey, thus. Chili con carne may be the perfect Christmas food. I still wonder, however, just what those homeowners are going to do with that twelve-foot statue in their yard when it gets to be Valentine’s Day and even Easter.