God in flesh
Christ redeems ‘humanness.’
Somehow, amid the flurry of Christmas carols, lighting advent candles, and re-enacting scenes from the Nativity, I always seem to lose sight of one of the most essential and revolutionary aspects of our faith which this season, of all, should celebrate: the Incarnation—the uniquely Christian claim that God, who is God, became man, flesh and bones, spit and blood, man.
While the church fathers wrote treatises on this topic, I just want to share a few implications of this incredible reality that I have been thinking about for more or less the first time this season.
By becoming a Jewish man, by stepping into culture and history, Jesus redeems humanness. He provides a model, a second Adam, for what a human really looks like.
Suddenly, things that explore what it means to be a human and live in the world—art, music, stories, or disciplines like history and philosophy—find a new centre in the person of Christ. Right now, these realms of inquiry are incredibly displaced. We have trouble understanding beauty and what it means to be a human. In the Incarnation, however, Christ provides a model for what a human was created to be.
In the Incarnation, God ennobles and redeems our bodily existence. The pleasures and pains of being an animal are no longer just lusts of the flesh. We are allowed to enjoy them in their proper place. The gifts of being a human in the world—eating and drinking, sunsets and sex—are all just that, gifts: means by which we can receive of God’s grace in the world. The world was created good, and we were created to enjoy and steward its goodness. We don’t have to dismiss our bodily, fleshy life as a pure manifestation of evil compared with our mental and spiritual sides (like Gnostics did in the past and do today). Rather, Christ, in the Incarnation and Resurrection, is our model for how the two sides are redeemed together.
The same goes for the rest of the created world. The old church father Athenasius, writes about how that same Christ who, as God’s Word was present at the creation of the universe and contains it in himself, also stepped into this world.
The world around us, this finite chunk of matter suspended in the Milky Way, is also somehow full of God’s Word. Christian tradition has, for centuries, called this the “book of Creation,”—how creation itself testifies its Creator. But more recent Christian voices like poets Margaret Avison, Denise Levertov, or Wendell Berry also write of the wisdom of God on display in the created world around us.
This is by no means an exhaustive exploration. But, in a season of much fluff and distraction, I encourage you to meditate on the redemptive implications of this scandalous act of grace wherein God took on flesh and hung out with us.