question Incarnation…(John 1: 1-9)

The questions that follow our Christmas celebrations are quite often harmless –

“How were your holidays?” we ask when we meet;

or “Did you finish your left-over’s? (or start your diet)”

and (in the right company, some can be heard to remark.

“wasn’t that a good crowd on Christmas eve?”

(though there is nothing harmless about a rhetorical question, no matter what the subject)

 

 

 

December is not typically a time for deep questions in the church (or beyond the church) –

we shop without thinking, eat without a care for the consequence,

worship with a kind of frightening intensity

but we really don’t want our opinions challenged, or our traditions set aside.

Christmas in the church should leave us with a question, however.

One of the fundamental questions of our faith, in fact, comes directly from the story of the Nativity.

All our carols, our Scriptures, our sense of wonder at the arrival of God in the body of a child

(for that is what we proclaim with the Christmas Gospel lessons)

All these things should prompt us to ask why.

Why was this flesh-and-blood step part of the revelation of God in the first place?

What is the point of an “Incarnate Deity”?

 

We may be more inclined to ask this question at Easter –

when we have heard again the story of Jesus trial (so called),

execution, death and resurrection.

In those circumstances, it is only natural to ask why God couldn’t have found a better way.

At Christmas, the horrors of Holy week are not a pressing concern,

and Incarnation seems innocent,

but we know better.

What we call innocence – in the young and helpless Christ child – is really something else.

Newborn children are fully dependent on their parents –

and dependent is not one of the qualities that we associate with God.

 

To move and live among us, God has been given over to us –

Jesus is at the mercy of our humanity.

 

Incarnation leaves God vulnerable – Incarnation imagines a weakness in the character of God –

And in turn we are offered a chance to address our own weakness and vulnerability.

For you see, when God is no more than an all powerful, super-distant, dispenser of cosmic prizes

We relate to God in two ways: as recipients of God’s favour, or victims of God’s wrath.

You show no weakness to someone who has that kind of power over you.

 

 

But when “…the Word became flesh and lived among us…”

as John’s prologue goes on to say,

We see, not just God’s glory, but also God’s compassion.

John’s gospel speaks in mystical terms about life and light;

About the Logos – the word – that carries all the creative and redemptive power of God,

But in the end, John describes Jesus;

a flesh and blood representative of the whole divine package.

There is none of the new-born innocence found in Luke,

But there can be no doubt that John believes

God has made a statement of solidarity with us by choosing ‘frail flesh’.

And when we consider what this might mean – that Jesus is not just the gift of God, but “God with us” – we must make a choice.

Can we offer our own weakness to the One who put strength and power aside?

Can we trust the God who stoops to serve?

Dare we put ourselves at the mercy of God, who trusted himself to us in Jesus…?

I believe – especially at Christmas –

with the image of God as a child fresh in our minds –

that the only answer is yes.

 

For it is clear that he did not come to help angels,

 but the descendants of Abraham.  (Hebrews 2: 16)

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