It’s Christmas time for society but it is Advent for Christians. Advent is a season of waiting for the Messiah to return.
That’s right – return. Traditionally Advent is about Jesus’ return rather than his birth. But most churches focus on Jesus’ birth rather than his return. But it is good to think about both, Jesus’ birth and his return, during Advent.
At first glance these two ideas might not seem to have too much in common, the second coming and a baby’s birth. What does link them is the Christian belief in the incarnation.
” Incarnation” is the word theologians use to talk about the odd reality that God becomes a human person. It is one of Christianity’s weirder ideas- that God could and would want to become one of us. One might wonder why God would do such a thing. And that is a worthwhile thing to spend time wondering about.
There are many things that we can and should consider when we think about the Incarnation. A dictionary definition, while a place to begin, is not the place to end. The reality of the Incarnation is complex and worthy of repeated reflection.
Why would God become one of us? Why the Incarnation?
The Incarnation is something God does for us. God becomes human for our sake. God becomes human to help us understand God and our own humanity better. The God who creates the world, who loves the world, enters our experience so we can begin to understand who we are created to be.
When we look at Jesus we see who we are supposed to be.
It’s important to spend some time thinking about this, because it is easy for us to get confused about what we are supposed to be. Jesus was male, middle eastern, Jewish, single, itinerant and a carpenter, among other things. To be a human requires some particularity. Jesus had to be a specific person in a specific time and place. But that particularity doesn’t privilege those external characteristics over other characteristics. For the most part we don’t usually get too confused about this, but every once in a while we do.
What seems most helpful to me is to consider the way Jesus interacts with the world, with those he meets in various circumstances. I can’t be Jesus. I can only be me. But I can try to follow Jesus’ way of being- how he treats people. I can try to listen carefully to what Jesus said and try to follow.
I could make a list of what these things that Jesus does and says are, but I’d rather hear from you.
What are two or three things that you think God wants us to understand, as we look at Jesus, about being human?