Incarnate Goodness

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

I still remember the first time I saw the movie Hairspray.  The movie, based on a musical based on a movie, is set in the 60s and follows the adventures of Tracy Turnblad, an outspoken and overweight young woman in high school.  Tracy is mocked and bullied by other students, but she never apologizes for her size; instead, she wins a spot on a local teen dance show and uses her influence at the studio to fight for racial desegregation.  She insists on being accepted as she is, and she fights for a world in which no one is discriminated against because of what their body looks like.  And at the end of the movie, she makes out with Zac Efron – what more could you ask?

I think I saw this movie in theater maybe three or four times.  I cried every time.  I can’t begin to tell you how profoundly moving it was to see someone who actually looked like me – a bona fide fat actress, jiggly arms and all – up on the big screen, as the protagonist of a movie.  And while the movie does show Tracy and other fat characters struggling with the stigma against their weight, their stories are much richer than this one detail about them.  And watching them, watching this movie, I felt truly seen for the first time.  I felt like someone else finally thought a story like mine was worth telling.

In many ways, Christmas is a celebration of bodies – all bodies.  It is a celebration of the incarnation.  We celebrate that God, the divine creator of all that is, chose to take on flesh and become human.  God so loves and values humans that God took on a body like ours and chose to live a story like ours.  God entered fully into humanity, sharing not just our brokenness and suffering, but also even our joys – human joys like food and laughter and friends.  The incarnation we celebrate at Christmas reminds us that our bodies are holy, that we are created and redeemed by God.

All too often, the holidays are a time when people look at their bodies with disappointment or criticism.  But Christ’s incarnation unapolagetically insists that all bodies are good.  And that means our bodies too.  All bodies are good, God-given bodies – so good, in fact, that God chose to come to earth in one.  So rather than spend time second-guessing God about the goodness of our own bodies, Christmas seems like a good time instead to take a page out of Tracy Turnblad’s book and see where other bodies are not being treated as holy.  How can we imitate Christ in lifting up the lives and bodies of those whose stories deserve to be told?

Christmas is, at heart, a celebration of the incarnation.  So I invite you to celebrate these beautiful bodies of clay that God has created – all bodies – starting with your own!

Wishing you a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas!

First published in St. John’s December 2019 newsletter.
Cover image is from Hairspray (2007).

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