Incarnation is about making the Word flesh. Dangerous idea, this. Not for the faint of heart or the imagination limited to the trash heaps of machine thinking. Incarnation is about the presence of the Divine between the time God walked in the Garden and the time when the Son of Man call together all that is created for a final confab. It's God with us in the time between.
The big INCARNATION event, of course, is celebrated on December 25th in a great shout out for Jesus. But once the door is opened to the possibility that the Divine presence can be made flesh and dwell among us, the door opens to that same presence being in each and all of us, or in particular persons in specific instances.
In Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, all the time, and through death to resurrection. But perhaps in this or that person, for this or that moment, God too is pleased to dwell, if even for a moment. The Word made flesh, is also known in the "flesh" that is the whole created order, so sometimes incarnation is seen in the whole of creation, all together.
Incarnation is thus an invitation to a party where at least one person, Jesus, is that Presence, all the time, and where others can be that presence, if only for a moment, and the creation itself can also bethe flesh of God's incarnate presence.
It's hard to experience incarnation in what is often understood to be a badly fallen creation, and in particular hard to seen in the lives of human creatures whose world can be harsh and brutal, fearful and dangerous. Still, if we cannot see God present, infleshed, anywhere around us, how are we to believe that in Jesus God is present fully? If we have no experience of incarnation, what sense can we make of The Incarnation?
So, working up to Christmas, I'm thinking of small incarnational moments, when people or events reminded me that the Divine is given body in the world I live in. The next few days I want to record some of the times when I have been assured that God present in body is a reality. You will have your stories as well. Perhaps you too will share.
Incarnation (writ small), take #1
912 Greens: This morning I've been listening to Ramblin' Jack Elliott sing "912 Greens," a rambling story / talking song about a trip to New Orleans. I first heard him in person sing this at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since then I suppose I've seen him in person sing it six or seven times and have heard it on disk hundreds of times. Some of my best memories of hearing it in person have been with friend Jim Friedrich.
Throughout the song Jack would sit or stand on the stage, but towards the end (and everybody knew what was coming) he talked and strummed his way out into the audience and sang - sang- the one line that was pure song, "Did you ever stand and shiver, just because you were looking at a river?"
Jack was, for a brief moment (repeatable) the presence of the Divine in the flesh. His story song was filled with what has been called "investigative poetry," poetry that fills us with concrete details, little snapshots of the developing story line. The story / song loves real people in a gentle way. It is filled with real moments, small acts of courage, small events of community. And then, when he has brought us all into the moment, the full whammy of the "just now," he rips our hearts out, by wondering if we knew how to stand and shiver just because we were looking at a river. Jack takes us in a brief instance, into the mind of the Creator looking at the Created with an overwhelming sense of anticipation and joy.
Maybe all of this is foolish, after all Jack is just a singer and it is just a song, and he is a rascal and I am a fool. But still, I find myself listening and my mind stills down and I enter the world of 912 Greens and I am more and more prepared to anticipate and entertain the idea that the words are building a world in which amazement and shivering will be present, and I will experience The Word in words, and The Song in songs, and will know the Divine made flesh in the singer and the song, and in me too.
It is a little thing, this incarnational moment. It is not The Incarnation. But it is a light in the darkness, it is a moment of Truth is a world of words gone bad. It is a beacon of hope, hope that God who walked in the Garden also walks down into the audience, and into my heart, and gives me hope by pointing to the river, and I shiver.
And it holds promise too that maybe in this or that moment you and I too can be the incarnation of the Holy One, a small spark of the Divine One in the real world.