Traditionally, Epiphany marks the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. The three wisemen we often see crashing the crèche actually arrived a little later in the story.

In reading up on Epiphany, I turned to one of my favorite authors, Shane Claiborne. Claiborne along with two others, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro, put together a book called Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.

Part of the prayer for Epiphany is:

The heavens shine with your glory : as you wrap yourself in skin.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, January 6

Boundless God is bound by skin.

Not long ago, on a cruise, I read a book called Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren F. Winner. Her book turned my Sunday School learnings on its head. Her view was directly opposite of everything I’d ever read or learned about Adam and Eve’s eviction from the Garden of Eden.

A beautiful sunset over the somewhere in the Carribbean Sea. “The heavens shine with your glory.”

It had to do with those garments God gave the first couple in an act of mercy and love.

The Lord God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21, NET

I had always thought that God gave them designer rabbit coats and calf-skin shoes. It never occurred to me that God would clothe them in actual human skin. But that’s how Winner saw it. God gave them full humanity that day.

I have always understood the description in Genesis to mean that God clothed Adam and Eve with their own skin. In my imagining they needed skin in order to live in the non-Eden world, and so God gave it to them, right before expelling them from the garden.

Lauren F. Winner, writing in Wearing God

When she spoke with others, some of them had the same take as I did, God made clothes: jackets, pants, shoes, and other more substantial clothing then fig leaves. When Winner questioned the Rabbis she knew she found that they too thought God clothed Adam and Eve with human flesh itself.

The bible is like that. Both viewpoints can be accurate.

When I think about skin — I think of it as a boundary. The actual space I occupy on this planet. Inside my skin is me. Outside my skin is other.

It’s the boundary of skin and muscle and bone that actually increases pain in childbirth. It’s the boundary of skin and muscle and bone that dies. It’s the boundary of skin and muscle and bone that separates me from the elements. It’s the boundary of skin and muscle and bone that sometimes completely traps or betrays me.

Skin is the biggest organ of the body. (There’s that word body again.) It protects the organs, provides sensation like hot, cold, and tickles. It keeps me inside and others outside. It keeps my organs in a package called Kris. It’s opaque and you can only see me through what I choose to show you. (Remember that poem I wrote: {Re}invent?)

The God of the Angel Armies, Creator Almighty took on skin.

He willingly clothed himself in skin and body and muscle and bone. He had to be human. How else could he experience humanity? How else could he understand the human condition except to submit to such a boxing in?

Clothing us in skin made us truly human. Whether God did that from the beginning or at the eviction of the Garden is irrelevant.

It made us individuals.

God put on skin and dwelled among us.

The heavens shine with your glory : as you wrap yourself in skin.