It’s so easy to let familiarity breed a laxadasical attitude. People who live with gorgeous views tend to stop seeing them. Those of us who know amazing people tend to take them for granted. It seems to me that the very rich probably don’t notice the wealth around them. And probably somewhere, there’s a person sitting in a third world country thinking that a guy like me doesn’t have a clue how amazing it is to always have a full belly, to live with antiobiotics and electrical lights, to recieve a free education, to experience freedom of religion and expression. That person who doesn’t have any of those things, who might want to judge me for how much I don’t appreciate so many of those things… he’d be kind-of right to judge me for this.
There are truths about the world that should seem fundamentally wierd but we slowly stop noticing: apparently solid things are over 99% empty space; obects never actually touch eachother, they just interact with negative electrical charges of the elctrons; some trees are centuries old; light from stars that reach us at night left thier points of orgin milenia ago.
Similarly, there are things about my faith that should boggle my mind. In a way, I become immune to their wierdness by thinking about them too much. But in some other way, the real problem is that I stop thinking on them. I kind process some information, I can’t wrap my brain around it, so I just give up and go about my daily existence.
The facts of Jesus’ birth certainly fit this. The author of space-time and everything in it; the originator of peace and the source of all goodness, he somehow managed to squeeze all that he is into a little bitty flawed human, living in a fallen world. This human was born the lowest of the low, in the world’s eyes. Even though his mom was ready to give birth no one had enough mercy to even put her up with the other people. This God was born in a nasty, smelly barn.
His mission on Earth was not to gather power in the world’s eyes. His life is a testament to the fact that the world’s power is meaningless. He died not through a show of force but a sacrifice of love.
It just doesn’t make any sense, when we look at this through the world’s eyes.
And through the eyes that Jesus’ contemporaries had? Well, sometimes, I wonder if God didn’t set certain aspects of Judaism up just to mess with their heads. Not in a malicious way, but I have to wonder if he didn’t have just a bit of a smile on his lips when he set the whole thing up.
God taught the people that he was so far above them. To see his face would kill a person. To interact with him for extended periods left Moses’ face glowing. When he took up residence in the Arc of the Tabernacle, he visited only one person only once a year. He was a distant God, far above them.
Yet God told them that they’d set apart. He even gave them rituals for making themselves presentable to him through sacrifice of livestock that they otherwise would have enjoyed for themselves; it was only the best and healthiest that was worthy of putting themselves in a standing that they could come anywhere near approaching God. There was an emphasis on man’s fallen nature, a history of even the Jews being unworthy, and a borderline obsession with purity-cleanliness.
Always the idea was that they might temporarily elevate themselves. God was only visited on God’s terms. The very idea that God might lower himself to their filthy level must have been nearly unthinkable.
And later, Jesus would go on to be equally scandelous. People in general have an “ick factor” associated with dead bodies. The Hebrews in particular had specific rules and expectations around avoiding contact with dead flesh and bodily fluids.
So I can only wonder what it must have been like when Jesus told them to remember him, to eat the bread as if it were his flesh, to drink the wine as if it were his blood. But I digress. My focus today is on God’s entry into the world in the shape of Jesus.
And the last thing I guess that I have to offer about this mind-blowing entry, is that in a way, it fits.
I realize that I’ve just babbled on and on about the manner in which Jesus didn’t fit. And I stand by that. But the thing is, in a different way, it fits very well.
God often enters the world in just this way: long after anybody would have expected, far mightier than we can fathom, and utterly backwards to what had been expected, turning the tables utterly on what had been the status quo.
More on that next post.