Friday, December 05, 2008

I've been thinking...

Dangerous, I know, but couldn't help it the other day. We're in the middle of a Week of Accompanied Prayer at Uni. That doesn't mean someone walks round with you all day praying. It's a week when people commit to taking some time out to pray and then having a 1-to-1 conversation about how it went each day. Facilitated by Steve Hoyland from Loyola Hall. Fully recommended for Universities, College and parishes.

What got me thinking was a prayer exercise Steve led on one of the Christmas passages, and it led me to consider again how many Christians from my background often don't really believe in the Incarnation - that Jesus was fully human and divine. The theological significance of Christmas is often relegated to being the necessary pre-amble for the adult Jesus being who he said he was, but isn't seen as significant in itself.

Health warning: Mike gets a bit theological in the next bit.

As an example, consider a typical evangelist's presentation of the Christian message. It will start with human rebellion against God, and our flaws and falling short of what we should be. That contrasts with the holiness and purity of God. God is holy, and therefore a) he judges those who are sinners, and b) nothing flawed can live in his presence. Sometimes the phrase "God can't look on or have anything to do with sin" is added.

But do the logic. If you believe that Jesus is genuinely divine. (For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form Col 2:9. NIV) then the entry of Jesus into the world is a breaking of that partition by God himself. What is Jesus eating with "sinners", having a prostitute anoint him and inviting himself round to a tax-collector if it isn't God "having something to do with" sin? Either it is precisely that, or Jesus isn't God incarnate. You can't have it both ways. And if this is true, then the reconciliation of the world to God by Jesus isn't isolated to a few hours on Good Friday; it's a lifetime's work.

Of course, some presentations put a little distance between "Jesus" and "God", especially when talking about the crucifixion. One common account is that "God" punishes "Jesus" instead of us, so that we don't have to serve that sentence on account of our wrongdoing. That would be a logical consequence of a theology that under the surface views Jesus as a special, pure man, rather than fully divine. But it's clearly much more complicated than that.

Christmas is actually an inconvenient truth - that a holy and almighty God enters the world and lives with and alongside "sinners" - talking, working, eating and drinking with them. Maybe we all need to see the baby, perhaps even hold him in our mind's eye and think what difference does that make.
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1 comment:

LankyAnglican said...

Interesting reflections Mike. I often think that the culturally embedded view of the 'baby Jesus' stops people from wrestling with the theology of Christmas. We are sometimes guilty of putting the theology of Christmas out of the equation because of the millions of superficial distractions.