Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why an Incarnation?

This was a challenge posted by emergent theologian Tony Jones on his Patheos blog Theoblogy:  

Why an Incarnation?  

He writes, "I'm most interested in what the incarnation tells us about God, human beings, creation, the Cosmos, the End Times, Heaven, Hell, salvation, or anything else from a Progressive Christian Perspective,"

This is some useful stuff for me to begin thinking about because I am preaching for my congregation on Epiphany, which is also my last Sunday in Denver.  

So, why an incarnation?  

Honestly, I think it is because we would not listen any other way.  When I am saying we, I mean humanity throughout all time and in all places.  We tend to think that we know best what we need, and generally that comes down to what we want at a given time.  The Messiah the Israelites wanted was a king in the Davidic line, a monarch of military might.  I think we still want the same kind of Messiah, a savior of our own personal choosing who is at our beck and call, who hates the same people we do.  I really don't think if left to our own devices we would have ever picked an infant born among farm animals in a stable to a teenage mother, with an earthly father who was a carpenter, and a heavenly father who is bound and determined to break through the walls we have constructed around our hearts and in our world.  It just doesn't make sense, and yet, I think that is precisely why God chose the person of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world.  

God in Christ broke into our world quietly with the birth of an infant on a dark night in Bethlehem.  And as the cry of a newborn shattered the silence of the night, the Word became flesh and lived among us.  This so thoroughly upends our assumptions about God, that we simply must listen.  Jesus Christ continued to smash our ideas about God as he kept company with unsavory characters, healed those who seemed beyond all help, and died the most undignified death possible, on a cross.  With the incarnate Christ we have a God who is fully human and fully divine.  Our God knows the fullness of human experience, including deep joy and deep pain, which means we are never alone.  

But why an incarnation?  Because of love.  God knew that humankind would ultimately reject (and crucify) the person of Jesus Christ, and yet still came into the world as a vulnerable infant, to attempt to reach our broken hearts, all the while knowing that our sinful nature would prevent us from seeing the gift that we were being offered. Yet he loved us so much that he did it anyway.  The incarnation of Word made flesh tells us that we have a God of love, who knows us far better than we will ever know ourselves, yet loves us anyway.  That is the gospel.  

1 comment:

Xaris said...

Of course the question assumes the incarnation to be factual and not merely a culturally evolved notion. If the latter is more factual then the reason for the incarnation might be the for the same reasons that we prefer to say that the scriptures are inspired - to give absolute authority to the words spoken. If the former is true, then one would expect the red letters to be doubly sacred. Personally, though, the incarnation confirms for me that grace really is grace.