At Christmas, Christians celebrate something utterly preposterous, yet utterly true:
The God of all creation, who brought forth all things from nothing, and by whom all things exist, was born as a human baby. He was born to a poor young woman who lived in a backwater province on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. We would come to call her the “Mother of God,” the Theotokos, the “God-bearer.”
The God who is not one being among others, but the very ground of being…
The God in whom all true power originates and resides…
The God who formed humankind out of dust gave to us that quality of existence we call life…
This God came into the world as a baby, and took on every quality of human existence, except for sin.
[Christ, who] was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness (Phil 2:5-7).
Or, as Charles Wesley so beautifully wrote:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
It seemed absurd to the ancient pagan world.
It seems absurd to the world today, as well.
Christians affirm that which seems ridiculous in the eyes of those who do not share our hope. And yet it is our adherence to such “ridiculous” ideas that gives our faith its power. We claim that God is more powerful, more mysterious, more loving, and more involved in human affairs than we could ever discern in our flesh. God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ, and it is this very act that defines who God is for us. God is not what we thought, perhaps not what we thought we wanted. But this is God—this child who is the axis upon which all creation turns.
Yes, it seems absurd. And yes, for all its apparent absurdity, the Incarnation is true. It is truer than anything else we call true because it is God’s most decisive act in all of history. We cannot know what truth is apart from the Incarnation.
Athanasius sums things up with customary brilliance:
For it is a fact that the more unbelievers pour scorn on Him, so much more does He make His Godhead evident. The things which they, as men, rule out as impossible, He plainly shows to be possible; that which they deride as unfitting, His goodness makes most fit, and things which those wiseacres laugh at as “human” He by His inherent might declares divine.
What many laugh at as human, God declares divine.