“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14
Last Sunday night, Harris Creek held its first ever “Lessons and Carols” service. This is a very old type of celebration that has actually been around since the 1800s. So, there was nothing unique about this service aside from one minor detail: We had it in a local bar (ok, technically on the patio outside a local bar…but still). 150 Baptists publicly acknowledging each other in a bar in the middle of Baptistville, USA? The thought of such an event most likely caused some good Baptists to roll over in their graves.
But we were actually very intentional about where we wanted to have this event. First, this is a bar that our college ministry meets in every Sunday night throughout the school year to have a worship service called Sola. So, we weren’t just trying to be trendy or hip. This is somewhere we’ve been invested in and wanted to show it to our whole congregation. But more importantly, there was a theological reason we wanted to have this particular service in a bar, and that reason is a word called “incarnation.”
“Incarnation” is a theological word for God becoming flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. This is one of the critical beliefs of any Christian. The implications of this belief cause us to acknowledge many things about the God we serve. It causes us to recognize that God is not distant or cold; rather, He is near and with us. It causes us to believe that God is not simply sympathetic to our pain, but that He is also empathetic because He has experienced the depth of human pain through Jesus. Equally important, it causes us to believe that God has demolished the line between “sacred” and “secular” by coming to earth.
Frederick Buechner says it this way: “Incarnation means that all ground is holy ground because God not only made it but walked on it, ate and slept and worked and died on it.” Now, I’ve got to warn you: Not all Christians see the incarnation as a reason to blur the line between “sacred” and “secular.” Christmas is a great time to see how some people cling to the age-old “sacred vs. secular” divide. Every year around this time of year, the endless (and senseless) debate strikes up about whether true Christians should even celebrate Christmas. Christianity Today did a story recently talking about why this debate rages. It boils down to the fact that many Christians are uncomfortable with the pagan roots of Christmas…or, in other words, that Christmas is not “holy enough.”
When discussing a similar subject, Leonard Sweet says, “But the incarnation blows the distinction between the sacred and the secular out of the water. There is no neat line of demarcations between the things of the world and the things of the Spirit. God uses the profane and the ordinary to reveal the sacred and the holy.” So, why did we do our “Lessons and Carols” service in a bar? Because we believe wholeheartedly in the incarnation. We also believe that God is in the process of redeeming and reconciling all things to Himself, even a dingy bar. That is why we celebrate Christmas, the coming of God in flesh through Jesus Christ.