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Speaking to the Soul: Shave and a Haircut

Speaking to the Soul: Shave and a Haircut

Friday, December 12, 2013 — Week of Advent 2, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)

Isaiah 7:10-25

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

Luke 22:14-30

Advent is the perfect season for pondering the incarnation and trying to wrap our imaginations around the wonder of God taking on the form of human flesh. It was in that spirit of imagining the incarnation that I read this verse from our first reading: “On that day the Lord will shave with a razor hired beyond the River–with the king of Assyria–the head and the hair of the feet, and it will take off the beard as well.” I’d never thought of God shaving before! It’s one thing for God to take on flesh, but it seems even more striking to think of God taking on hair from head to toe.

Biblical commentaries tell me that I read this verse all wrong, however. It’s not, in fact, about God shaving himself. It’s about what God will do to the land of Judah’s enemies, and perhaps even to the people who live there, after building a powerful Assyrian alliance. The imagery suggests razing or plundering the land, or maybe even humiliating the enemy people taken captive by shaving their beards and their bodies, as was done to David’s men elsewhere in the Bible (2 Sam 10:1-15).

In other words, I mistook the bodies of God’s enemies for God’s own body. I thought that the verse was about God tending to his own body, when in fact it is about how people want to treat the bodies of their enemies.

But perhaps that’s the kind of confusion that Jesus took on flesh in order to correct. The body of Christ comes to correct the deep sin of abusing and shaming the bodies of our enemies. God’s body, like the bodies of our enemies, has a head full of hair, a beard, and hairy feet. Perhaps these are signs not of a God who came to be on our side, but of Immanuel: a God who came to be with us.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal.  She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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