God the Father and Embryo

God the Father and Embryo December 23, 2012
Pieter de Grebber, Father God c.1645

Advent suggests so many mysteries of God’s patience. One rarely commented case is God as Father and embryo. It is extra Biblical so imagination can only begin to tell the bizarre tale. Gabriel’s annunciation and appearance to Joseph begins the period of waiting and soul searching, but a remarkable gap exists in the Advent story.  Luke 1:56 makes this cursory remark as though it would suffice:

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Presumably the second trimester of Mary’s pregnancy is treated with a passing reference. If we simply take the Divine conception of Jesus at face value, there was a moment in human history where God existed as Father in the heavens and embryo in Mary’s uterus. Paradox of paradoxes. The Creator in utero. Luke does not give us what we need so desperately to peer into this Divine mystery. Our innate curiosities explode with anticipation of any insight and insider information. Daily changes in the body of a young girl, budding woman, happened with virtually no commentary. I find this equally disturbing as Father God choosing Mary as the mother of a Divinely human being. If such a tale should be at least give us some gory details, right? However, God the Eternal Spirit grew as a material embryo, and the record is mute. Could it be that Mary had a ‘normal’ pregnancy? Preposterous. Such an assumption assaults our over saturated imaginations.

We see the depiction of God the Father resting a globe on his knee as imagined by Pieter de Grebber as very plausible and expected. In the full painting, God the Father invites Christ to sit next to him on the throne in Heaven following the Ascension of Christ. This makes sense to most of us Christians. The majesty of the ‘old man in the sky’ is familiar. Long white beard. Golden cloak and white robe. God the Father must be such. However this presumed God of all might and capability took a  young child, made her a woman and subjected her to a natural pregnancy.

The mysterious embryo God indwells or inhabits known as Jesus, the one to shake the Heavens and to redeem the Earth, exists as a feeble and frail cluster of cells growing ever so quietly. Is it possible God the embryo grew like any other? Risking the possibility of miscarriage? Venturing into the plausible realm of complications of a natural birth? Mary’s stomach ever so slowly demonstrated signs of the most ridiculous birth tale in human history. Hips widening to bear the weight of the immaterial God. Breasts developing milk for the nourishment of the Nourisher. Life giver seeking life support from a young child mother. A tragic tale of early pregnancy would set the stage for this most wonderfully awkward narrative we Christians extol. This is the God we celebrate at Advent.

Such an Advent moment waiting for the Embryonic God overwhelms my sensibilities. The illogical and improbable, the absurd and ludicrous, the natural and expected? Surely God as Father would make a grand entrance into the world? There should be no pain, no labor, no normalcy. Sustained through the blood of a young girl.  The signs we seek are so often unrequited with silence and a glaring command to wait and be patient. God must not rely on such weakness and expected means. How could an all powerful God do such a ridiculous thing as to make a Divinely human conceived being be so base and common?

The patience and mystery of God the Father using his own natural means of procreation to reach us all is a powerful demonstration of the degree we must wait and anticipate His coming in our lives. If an Embryonic God did not burst forth from Mary’s uterus, what makes us think God will do the same in the wombs of our dilemma’s? If this God would use natural processes to perform the most extravagant of supernatural appearances, why can’t Father God do the same for us today? Through the naturally supernatural environments we inhabit each moment.

Advent teaches us that we can experience God in the waiting of mundane life. God the Embryo lives in us, through us, when we open ourselves to birth of God’s Spirit. The possibility is just as unlikely and feeble when we encounter such moments of nascent Divinity inside. But these moments of love, joy and peace;  patience, kindness and goodness; faithfulness, gentleness and self-control resemble the methods of the Embryonic God of this Advent story.

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  • The issues you bring up are probably one of the reasons the Jewish writers of the New Testament never chose to call Jesus “God;” at least not in the sense you are using the term. They spoke of “God-with-us” in Jesus as a fulfillment of “God-with-us” in many promises and ways of being present throughout history, but never of Jesus as “God.” I know some exegetes attempt to stretch a sentence or two to get there, but that doesn’t work either. Usually it doesn’t work textually, and certainly not contextually given the Hebrew Bible use of “god” (elohim) to speak of rulers, angels, and humans as elohim. Wish we would follow their very wise example and get back to our Jewish roots rather than our Platonic roots. I am thrilled that Jesus is alive and exalted to God’s right hand as co-regent in this age of history. Why should we demean his faithfulness and risks by calling him “God?” The mess we have made for ourselves is not “mystery,” it is the result of reconstructing the Jewish story into the Platonic story. And, it really hurts our witness to God’s great work through Jesus in the world.