I can’t remember the first time that I realized it. All I can remember is that tears came to my eyes and I was filled with awe. Maybe like those shepherds long ago, tired, wondering, unsure, and ready. I too ready for a new day, ready for a deeper life God. There it was! God, creator of the universe, almighty, eternal one, becoming one of us, human, enfleshed, being born of a woman, like I was and you were. It is difficult to express how life changing this was for me.
God becoming us, God living our lives, God being born and growing up, God hanging out with friends, eating, drinking, and asking lots of questions, God loving so much that he ended up assassinated by the powerful, religious, and opportunist. All of this made sense, it clicked, it made me meet, as Marcus Borg said “Jesus again for the first time.” This kid that had grown up in the church was converted again when faced with the mystery of the incarnation.
The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.
St. Athanasius in On the Incarnation.
Since then I’ve continued to delight in this mystery. I’ve realized God’s presence in unexpected places, creation groaning, and the ways that Jesus is found in the least of these. I’ve also become much more aware of how important the body of Christ, the church, is to the continual work of Jesus in the world. We the continued incarnation of God, we healing, restoring, forgiving, and proclaiming good news. We loving like Jesus loved in the midst of the broken and messy world. We not afraid to get our hands dirty in our world but instead sanctifying it by our very present, making it more kind, loving, and compassionate from our encounter with divine life.
This delight comes from an awareness of my own messiness, sin, death, and corruption. From a growing awareness that as Athanasius told us long ago “[y]ou cannot put straight in others what is warped in yourself.” So if God the creator, sustainer, and redeemer chose to put on my own messiness, sin, death, and corruption so that I could find order, abundance, life, and wholeness then I too can choose to live in the messiness, in the unexplained, in the mystery. I too can extend the grace and forgiveness given to me, I too can live into Athanasius recognition that “Christ was made man that we might be made God.”
As we prepare to celebrate the indwelling of the transcendent into the world may we be willing to allow that transcendent life, divine life, fountain of life, to come into our beings and restore us, transform us, convert us, re-create us into what love looks like in the world. The biggest gift of God for the world being claimed and lived out in the everyday of life. In today’s mangers, forgotten places, lost people, tense borders, human misunderstanding, power hungers, desperations, and hopeless situations.
I wonder what might emerge if those of us who claimed Jesus as Savior begin to live as ones who claim him as God with us, Emmanuel, the almighty living among us, humbling God-self, so that the whole world might witness the salvation of our God?
So I’m still in awe! At times my passion for this way of being Christian might seem idealistic, unbelievable, and impossible. I can only imagine what the shepherd’s thought about as the host of heaven brought news that night!