Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Incarnation - 2023
Incarnation - 2023

Celebrating Incarnation

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Third Sunday of Advent

Richard Rohr describes why Christmas and celebrating the Incarnation of Jesus is foundational to Franciscan spirituality:

In the first 1200 years of Christianity, the central feast or celebration was Easter, with the high holy days of Holy Week leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But in the thirteenth century, Francis of Assisi entered the scene. He intuited that we didn’t need to wait for God to love us through the cross and resurrection. Francis believed the whole thing started with incarnate love. He popularized what we now take for granted as Christmas, which for many became the major Christian feast. Christmas is the Feast of the Incarnation when we celebrate God taking human form in the birth of Jesus.

Francis realized that since God had become flesh—taken on materiality, physicality, humanity—then we didn’t have to wait for Good Friday and Easter to “solve the problem” of human sin: the problem was solved from the beginning. It makes sense that Christmas became the great celebratory feast of Christians because it basically says that it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this Earth, it’s good to have a body, it’s good to have emotions. We don’t need to be ashamed of any of it! God loves matter and physicality.

With that insight, it’s no wonder Francis went wild over Christmas. (I do too—my little house is filled with candles at Christmastime.) Francis believed that trees should be decorated with lights to show their true status as God’s creations, and that’s exactly what we still do eight hundred years later.

And there’s more: when we speak of Advent or preparing for Christmas, we’re not just talking about waiting for the little baby Jesus to be born. That already happened two thousand years ago. In fact, we’re welcoming the Universal Christ, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is forever being born (incarnating) in the human soul and into history.

We do have to make room for such a mystery, because right now there is “no room in the inn.” We see things pretty much in their materiality, but we don’t see the light shining through. We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material.

The early Eastern Church, which too few people in the United States and Western Europe are familiar with, made it very clear that the Incarnation of Christ manifests a universal principle. Incarnation meant not just that God became Jesus, but that God said yes to the material universe and physicality itself. Eastern Christianity understands the mystery of incarnation in the universal sense. So it is always Advent because God is forever coming into the world (see John 1:9).

We’re always waiting to see Spirit revealing itself through matter. We’re always waiting for matter to become a new form in which Spirit is revealed. Whenever that happens, we’re celebrating Christmas. The gifts of incarnation just keep coming! Perhaps this is enlightenment.


Adapted from An Advent Meditation with Richard Rohr (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2017), video. No longer available.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Madison Frambes, Untitled 7, 5 and 8 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, Mexico, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

Together we are the incarnate hands and feet and body of God.

Story from Our Community:  

The meditation from June 5, 2023, Considering the Trinity, reminded me of the incredible feelings of love that intense grief can bring forth. When my beloved father was near death, I had the strong feeling that I was falling in love. It was totally unexpected to be so intensely sad and to be feeling such love in the same moment. In that experience, I realized that grief is actually a form of love. Now, 6 years later, I sometimes miss those first intense feelings of grief over my father’s death because it created a way for me to still feel deeply connected with him. As time has passed, and I’ve adjusted to life without his physical presence, my feelings of grief have faded as well and thus those deep connections feel diminished. I believe it is God’s way of having me move forward in life without him. —Anne G.

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.