Hail, Hail, the Word Made Flesh!

(CC licensed. Original here)

Last Sunday (Advent IV) I posted these lyrics to What Child is This?–lyrics that are absent from any of the hymnals I have. I noticed them, finally, on Sufjan Stevens’ beautiful Songs for Christmas:

Why lies He in such mean estate

Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!
My instinct–as a former student (and then teacher) of English–is to dissect this poetry or “explicate” it, to use my adorable Victorian literature professor’s term. Instead, I want to look at something else: the material, embodied, flesh-y things we do at Christmas.
We give gifts.
We eat food, rich food.
We hang lights, decorate trees, mark calendars, listen to (and make) glorious music.
My friend Ellen Painter Dollar has a post on her new Patheos blog called Blessed are the Christmas Makers. It’s more than worth going over there to read it in full, but here’s a tidbit to entice you:
“[Are] the traditions that so many bemoan as stressful and wasteful and beside the point are actually utterly appropriate for a holiday that celebrates God’s coming not as an ethereal spirit but as a squalling, hungry, needy newborn with flesh and blood and bone, born in a barn full of stinking, hairy, snuffling animals. Christmas traditions fill bellies, delight the senses, and literally brighten the early-winter darkness. Christmas traditions are about loving other people in tangible ways, in ways they can touch, taste, feel, smell, hear, and see. And isn’t the true meaning of Christmas that God loved the world in the most tangible way possible?”(CC Licensed; original here)
Yes. We celebrate the Incarnation by creating tasty, beautiful, sonorous, fragrant, comforting things. This is not blasphemy. It is not missing the “spiritual point.” In fact, it might just get to the point best of all.
Hail, hail, The Word Made Flesh!


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