Christmas, Epiphany, & Beyond
Christmas has come! Christ is born! Alelujah! The Eternal Word of God is hard to wrap our heads around. The immortal, invisible, almighty, and glorious God makes us feel "awe." But the Word became flesh: THAT's something we can wrap our heads around; THAT's Christmas. We know what a baby looks like, and we instantly think "Aww." Christmas is a season when we think about the fact that God came down to us from heaven. This can be problematic, though. Theologians sometimes call this the "scandal of particularity." God came down and became not just the abstract platonic human, but a particular human. God became a male, Palestinian, Jewish human. He had a mother, yes, but he had only one mother, named Mary. He was born in one place, Bethlehem. He could have been rich, but he was poor. How can he be God for all of us? How can he be Lord for black people? How can he be savior for women? I think of it the other way around. God became human, and being human requires being a particular human. We are all particular humans. Compared to God, being human means being limited. Yes, Jesus was born in one place; as a human, he couldn't be in all places. If he didn't become human, he could not be a high priest who sympathizes with us, tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. If he didn't become human, he could not be representing us before God, making intercessions for us in the Holy of Holies. The fact that he became human was necessary for the salvific work he set out to do. I think it would be a problem if he had NOT become a particular human. In this season of Christmas, I think we should celebrate particularity. Jesus became a particular human because he loved, not the aggregate of humanity or the abstraction of humanity, but each particular human. My challenge to you in this Christmas season is to celebrate the particularity of each human you know. See the particulars as features that Jesus loved, that Jesus could relate to because Jesus became a particular human like we are.
After the Christmas season (the twelve days of Christmas) comes Epiphany, on January 6th. The Book of Common Worship says that "Epiphany" means manifestation or revelation. Christ has been revealed as more than just a baby, more than just a male, Palestinian, Jewish baby. The wise men let the secret slip to Herod: he is the King of the Jews. Their gifts reveal so much more: gold for a king, incense for a God, and embalming perfumes for a sacrifice. Jesus is born in the deep midwinter when the days are short, but as we go into the new year, we find out more and more about how this particular male, Palestinian, Jewish boy is more than that. He continues to be revealed as the days reveal more and more light. We see him presented in the temple, where he receives his particular name, Jesus, and is celebrated by Anna and Simeon. We see him baptised by his cousin John. He calls particular friends, and heals particular people. As we continue in the church year, pay attention to the tension between the particularities of the human, Jesus, and the transcendence of Christ our Lord. Enjoy the "Aww" and look for the "awe. "