Savoring the Incarnation

Savoring the Incarnation December 25, 2012

At this time of year, we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth. But in an effort to make sure we don’t forget the grander story behind the story of Bethlehem, many Christians write and speak about how the manger is only the beginning of Jesus’ entire redemption journey. They see the shadow of a cross over the manger, reminding us of how Jesus was born only to die.
This is true. And yet sometimes I wonder whether in our eagerness not to lose sight of the whole picture, we fail fully to appreciate the beauty of the Incarnation all by itself. True, it’s difficult to escape the shadow of the cross. But just for one moment, can we concentrate solely on the awesome miracle of God in fragile flesh? Can we look upon the face of the Christ child and love him as he is, even before we remember what he will do for us?
For one moment, let us defy the logic of our minds and try unsuccessfully to grasp the truth that this is the Son of Man—the same one who appeared to Daniel in terrifying glory, who wrestled with Jacob, who spoke the stars into being and counts the islands as a very little thing. Let us linger at the manger for a little space of time, straining to catch the silent pleading of the unspoken Word.

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
T. S. ELIOT, Ash-Wednesday
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  • Lydia

    Merry Christmas, YGG. Thanks for the post.
    I think an interesting theological point here is that in some Christian traditions, there is an idea that we are redeemed by means of Jesus’ incarnation as well as by Jesus’ death. In fact, there are litanies that will say things like, “By thine incarnation, by thy tempting in the wilderness, etc.” as well as “by thy death,” and continue “deliver us” or “hear us” or “save us.” Now, exactly _how_ the incarnation itself is redemptive is a big theological question, but it has something to do with Jesus uniting humanity and the created with the Godhead itself. I don’t claim to have anything much more precise than that. And obviously, Christ’s death on the cross is absolutely necessary for the act of redemption to be completed. What you are rightly reacting against is the tendency to see the Incarnation as a mere means to an end rather than as a wondrous and redemptive thing in itself.