catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 23 :: 2006.12.15 — 2006.12.29


Late night thoughts on incarnation

A friend of mine offers this profound insight and question: In the Incarnation, we see that God knows how to become fully human.  Can we also become fully human, learning from God in Christ how it is done?

Just so.  That the One who created all that is should be able to squeeze the Divine self into an infant is at once astonishing and not so.  Yet while we need to linger in amazed wonder at the manger longer than the world would have us do, we need also not to rise from those moments thinking we are done with the Incarnation and can get on to other matters of greater theological import. I doubt there are any. 

God’s presence in the midst of suffering, God’s power to raise us to new life out of loss and grief, and God’s promise of life beyond death are all intended to empower us to live this life more fully humanly.  Or to put the matter another way, all these other signs and wonders are to empower us to incarnate God’s compassion in this life.  The Incarnation is incomplete if it doesn’t lead us to seek to incarnate the love we see in Jesus’ life.

And if Jesus was fully human, then all of our humanity, all of it, is the arena of incarnating that love.  Our worship and service, certainly.  But also all our relationships, all our gratitude, all our sexuality (ah, there’s a topic!), all our behavioral choices, all.  Jesus was not the Christ on a part time basis.  His divinity was part and parcel of the most mundane activities, which is why what he eats and with whom become such enormous points of contention with others.  How can this Jesus eat with the unclean, with women (and talk to them!), with sinners of every stripe and still and all, everywhere and at every moment, be the Christ?  This angry one, this feasting one, this fasting one, this playing with children one?  Surely God has more important things to be about than such ordinary, and human, experience.  Not if the Incarnation means fully human.

Advent is, in spite of the surfeit of evidence to the contrary within and without the church, a penitential season.  Perhaps as we make our way to the manger we might ponder where our humanity is closed, stunted, limited, not understood as a place of incarnation.  After all, as Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

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