I’m thrilled to introduce my good friend Benji Bruneel, author of this guest post:
As the world turns its Gregorian calendar to the month of December, the church turns its calendar to Advent. You remember Advent, right? It’s the time of year when churches fight to prevent people from assuming that reindeer wandered the dark streets of Bethlehem in search of a suitable chimney to stuff gold and Frankenstein down.
Instead, we in the church emphasize hope, peace, joy, and love to help our increasingly post-Christian nation get its mind right.
But, I wonder if we ought to take a collective step back. I wonder if, before we ever get to hope, peace, joy, and love, we should take a couple of moments—at the very least—to let our minds get blown. Because, when we take the Incarnation seriously—that cosmic stunner announced by angels—the guaranteed result is some mind blowing.
Let’s allow our friend C.S. Lewis to help us think about it again, as if for the first time. “The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him.” That should blow our minds. If yours is still intact, read that quote again. More slowly.
At Christmas we remember that God left heaven and came to a struggling, occupied
Middle Eastern nation. I don’t even like to leave California. Eternal God humbled himself, took on corruptible flesh, and entered the world as a vulnerable baby. We have trouble humbling ourselves enough to admit that another blogger made a point better than we could have. All-powerful God became one of us. I… that one simply defies all analogy.
This should astound us. This should knock us off our feet. This should leave us with our mouths agape. But, does it? Do we feel any awe at all when we sing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the Incarnate deity. Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel”? Do we pause for even a moment to ponder the magnitude depicted on our front lawn by the weathered plastic scene with the donkeys and the angels and the startlingly Scandinavian baby lying in the strange looking—what do we call that thing?
Or have we grown so accustomed to the story that we fail to recognize the shocking plot twist?
Matthew, for his part, wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it, so he made it pretty evident: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ which means, ‘God with us.’” God with us, indeed. And, with him, a whole new way of understanding our limited days on this earth.
The Incarnation screams that this life, and what happens in it, matters. The Incarnation insists that we are not, in fact, alone. The Incarnation reminds us that we have a glorious future ahead of us and that Gnosticism, sin, the Deceiver and death all lose. The Incarnation changes everything. That’s not an overstatement.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love and think the church ought to strive to help people reorient their thinking about Christmas and why it matters at all to us. But I suspect that the message of hope, peace, joy, and love sounds far more compelling on the lips of an awestruck people who just can’t get over the scandalous truth that God loved us enough to come and be with us. So, this Advent, let’s restore our sense of awe. Let’s take time to wonder and marvel at a Savior so magnificent that he became one of us. It might be a little easier to get our minds right once we’ve gotten our minds blown.