08 January 2005

Thoughts on the Incarnation

For me, as for the Buddha, it all comes down to the question of suffering. Or, more accurately, it comes down to this thing called "The Human Condition", of which suffering is a major part, but so are things like immense joy, family (with all its big and little joys and sufferings), temptation (a dry word for the aching needs we feel), fear and anxiety, etc.--all tempered and made more poignant and "real" by their fragility and the reality that our time, and our experience of all of these things, is limited. How could we ever really trust (a synonym for "have faith in") a God who had not fully experienced these things? How could we turn, in the depths of our suffering, to a God who had spent all of his/her/its eternal so-called "existence" on some pedestal in heaven, wrinkling his/her/its nose in distaste at the pathetic unpleasentness that these pitiful creations seem to get themselves involved in?

Now, let me be clear--I believe in a God who fully experienced the depths of our sufferings and the heights of our fragile joys since the beginning, both before and after the Incarnation. But why do I believe this? What would bring me to that conclusion? Nothing more or less than the Incarnation itself--the idea that God poured God's self so immensely into this individual Jesus. In that life, ministry, death, and resurrection, I see God fully experiencing our Human Condition, and I see that it's an essential part of God's nature to do so. (It always has been, but without the Incarnation, I might have trouble believing that.) Seeing that, I can have confidence, trust, and faith in a God who, no matter how bad it gets, has been there.

That, for me, is much of the significance of the Incarnation. But I guess that's not exactly true, since it really seems to just amount to proving a point, and I think that in the Incarnation the Son of God came not just to make a point, but to save the world. But that's another big subject--actually, much bigger, since it encompasses Salvation and Discipleship and Mission and Eschatology and the Kingdom of God, and those five together make up a great deal of what Christianity is. :-)

No comments: