With Christmas drawing near, I'm sharing the first of this year's thoughts on what's going on. Not at the shopping malls, but in the cosmos--reflections on incarnation:
Need I begin by saying that the incarnation has nothing to do with flowers? No, probably not. Anyone who has been around church-like things knows that it has something to do with Jesus, even if they don’t know exactly what. So let’s break the word apart. In carnis: in the flesh. Mix in a little God and we have God in flesh, or the central mystery of Christianity—God's divine nature is fully present in human nature. Or human nature is fully present in God’s divine nature.
How would we explain this major article of our faith to someone who has no knowledge of religion or, at least, Christianity? Why should such a person even care, much less receive it as Good News? The message is that “God so loved the world” that God entered the world to become one with the world, through human nature—who we are. That’s nice, yet there are species and natures in the world that are much nicer than we are. We cause wars. We consume beyond our need. We discriminate unfairly. We are hard to satisfy and too judgmental to be satisfied. We look down on others, even others of our own species. We compete. We hate. We hurt. We take. We are rarely satisfied. God so loved this?
I suppose that if a well-known leader like President Obama or Pope Benedict were to come to me and say, “I want you as my best friend,” I’d be flattered. I’d also be suspicious. “Are you sure you mean me? Even my friends can only take so much of me. I know myself. Why me?” It would make no sense to me, but I would sure work hard at being the best friend I could be, knowing full well that I had done nothing to earn the privilege. Still, it would really be strange.
God wants to be one of us, one with us? Is God no better than us. Tthe Old Testament does make God look pretty unstable at times—happy one day, foolish the next, needing anger management the third, etc.? We work so hard trying to be God, and God wants to be us? Is not even God ever satisfied? What is in it for God, and what is in it for us? These are human questions—at least among the one’s this human would have.
There is great danger in attributing to God only those human characteristics with which we are familiar. I suspect there is more to God than that. Heck, there is more to us than that! In becoming one with us, through the human Jesus, we are invited to be what we cannot even conceive of being, without loosing our humanness.
So, some questions. Let us reflect on them during the third week of Advent, and try to answer some of them during the fourth:
Why is the incarnation (God fully entering the human condition) such a big deal?
Who benefits from this relationship, and how?
What difference does it make in my life? Our life? What makes this Good News?