Faith, Politics, and Transitions in Brussels

The Scandal of the Incarnation

Bodies can be gross, wonderful, beautiful, broken, lovely, and vulnerable things. Bodies can be things that we aim to perfect — through athletics, through technology, through meditation, through cosmetic surgery, through diets, through vitamins. Bodies can also be things we aim to destroy, and this is usually the bodies of our enemies (personal or national). We are our bodies, and we are imperfect, broken, and vulnerable. Being a body can be painful, and it can be wonderful. But above all, being a body means being limited, small, and vulnerable. I am only where I am. I can try to use technology to build distances, but FaceTime is not the same as face-to-face time.

This brings me to Christmas, to the becoming human of God in Jesus. It is a mystery how this is even possible in the first place. I’m not sure. I’m sure that I’ll never be sure. The only thing I am sure about is that it was done in love. God emptied God’s self and became a human being, taking on our weaknesses, our smallness, our vulnerability, and the demands of the our bodies — to eat, to drink, to sleep, to excrete, to run, to jump, to dance. This is miracle and the mystery and the scandal of Christmas. God becomes limited. God becomes a human being. God enters creation as only a part of that creation.

Some people may say that Jesus is the greatest Christmas present ever given. It is a cliched image, and it allows us to bypass or ignore this mystery: that God as Jesus enters into vulnerability, into need. God shouldn’t need. God shouldn’t be vulnerable. That flies in the face of what it means to be God, right? Yet this is just what God does. Born of a teenage girl, an outcast, an outsider, poor, provincial, God enters time and space.

That’s what I am thinking about this Christmas. That God becomes vulnerable like me. That God suffers the indignity and the wonder of embodiment, just like me. Jesus took air into his lungs and at times cried, and at times laughed. He sang. He snubbed his toe. He got a cold every winter, just like the rest of us. God became vulnerable, why? To be with us: Emmanuel. For us and for our salvation, as the Creed says. That is what Christmas is about, that is the scandal of the Incarnation.

How are we treating the vulnerable among us? God chose to be among the vulnerable, to be born as one of their babies. Are we seeing Jesus in the vulnerable around us?