Flesh



Inspired by Luke 2:1-20

So this is our Great Pyrenees puppy, her name is Pearl. At the time of this photo, she was about a year and four months, but she still had more growing to do, as is common for a giant size breed. And as cute as she may seem in this photo, all was not well at this point in her life. She’s still alive, don’t worry, I would do that to you on Christmas Eve! We’re pretty sure that she was the runt of the litter. We got her on a farm up in Oroville, and the day we went to go look at her, we didn’t get to see any of her siblings.

She was the last one left. So at the time of the photo, she should have been much bigger. Not only that, but she wasn’t eating much. And so, even though she was still a puppy, she began to lose weight. On top of that, she started losing her hair, to the point that you could start to see her skin in some spots. You can tell in this photo that her hair is thin, and you can also see that her neck stands out prominently, and you could even see her ribs, spine, and hip bones stick out a bit.

Like I said, all was not well for our little Pearl, and we were freaking out. The thought of losing another dog, so soon, was unthinkable! So after many visits to her doctor, many visits to the pet store to try yet another food, and many dollars later, we’ve finally been able to get her to a healthy weight, as you can see in this next photo. This was about 3-4 months later. And in case you’re wondering, this is at our annual animal blessing that we hold right out front of the church each year in the Fall.

This year we had officers and their horses join us from the Placer County Sherriff’s department, and you can see Pearl hamming it up as they all wanted a picture of her. We’ve never really pinpointed the problem but her doctor says she’s probably done growing, even though she is small for her breed. She still struggles with her appetite. But she is healthy, and very spoiled. Not by me of course!

So, other than another excuse to show puppy pictures, why am I talking about Pearl? Well, I’m glad you asked! It got me thinking about a word that my kids absolutely hate when I use it: flesh. Any use of that word is unacceptable to them: flesh, fleshy, fleshed out. They hate it! So I use it any chance I get. And I thought, why not write a sermon about it, so here it goes. To me, it’s a positive word, not a negative or creepy one, or whatever they think it is. When we were worried about Pearl, we made it our mission, to put some flesh on her, to put some meat on them bones, to fatten her up, however you wanna put it, she needed flesh, and it was our job to help her get it. Now, what in the world does this have to do with Christmas? Another great question! Y’all are brilliant, I’m tell’n ya!

Over the past four months here at Bethlehem, we have been reading the great stories of the Hebrew scriptures. We started back in Genesis, and read some of the most fascinating stories, ending with the prophet Isaiah just the other week. Now we are reading through the Gospel of Matthew til Easter. And those ancient stories were full of hope, and promise, and God’s presence throughout. There were also stories of heartache and loss too.

But tonight, we read another ancient story that was closely connected to those from the Hebrew scriptures. Because, now it was time to put some flesh on that hope. Now it was time to put some meat on those promises. And it came in the form of a fat little baby, born to a poor middle-eastern couple, in a smelly old stable. That’s how God decided to flesh out the hopes and dreams of the world, that’s how God put meat on the bones of those promises made thousands of years ago.

So, here’s the meat that I want you to chew on as you leave this place tonight. Where does God need to put flesh on you? What part of your life is a bit scrawny? What part of your life has been neglected? What part of your life has bones showing through? Maybe in your spiritual life? Maybe not. Maybe in your professional life? Maybe not. Maybe in a particular relationship? Maybe not. Only you can tell. And once you are able to name where you need fleshed out a bit, how will you do it? Well, if there’s anything that these old stories tell us, it’s that God has been in the hope and promise business for a long time! And God has been in the fleshing out business, the putting meat on bones business for a long time. God’s kind of an expert at this. And how does God do this?

Lots of ways! Through the amazing people that God has put in your life, those that care for you, love you, especially those that love you enough to correct you when needed. Maybe it’s been a mentor, a friend, an inspirational book, heck, maybe lessons of unconditional love that your dog has taught you. God can use anything God wants to put some flesh on your bones. But let’s not confuse this with God’s love for you. God already loves you! God has loved you from before you took your first breath! And God could not love you more than God already does! This is about living life to its fullest, its fleshiest. Ok, I heard it that time, that was a little creepy. And by fullest I don’t mean that life is all about you. Which leads me to one last thing I’d like you to ponder, to chew on.

Bethlehem needs your help. And no, I’m not talking about your money, although little churches like us could always use more of that. And I’m not talking about your Sunday attendance, although, you’re always welcome. What I’m talking about is bigger than that even. I’m talking about leaving this world a better place than the way it was given to you. Maybe you’ve noticed, but the world isn’t a perfect place, far from. So, as you look around at your world, I want you to look for places that need some flesh on their bones. Now, you can take that very literally, which is why tomorrow we are having our 30th annual Christmas dinner right here at Bethlehem. If you know of anyone that needs a meal tomorrow tell them to come on by. Or you could also take that figuratively. As you look at your world look for places that are starving in other ways.

There are segments of society that are being treated unfairly and are starving for justice. There are groups of people that are persecuted and are starving for freedom. Or maybe it’s a neighbor who is lonely; a family who can’t afford to give their children a Christmas; or someone whose holidays are particularly difficult these days. God has given you eyes to see the needs of this world and put flesh on them. Use them—in the same way that God looked upon on our needs, and put flesh on our hopes and dreams in the form of a little baby, in another Bethlehem long ago. Merry Christmas dear friends. Amen.

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