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December 18, 2007

Wrapping Our Minds Around the Incarnation

Incarnation C.S. Lewis famously said that, in order for individuals to appreciate what God did in coming as a human being, they needed only to imagine what it would be like if they returned as an earthworm. Eating lots of dirt, not much mobility, and extraordinary vulnerability to getting squashed by any number of other creatures would be unsavory to say the least, not to mention the humiliation of it all.

And many of us have heard the famous analogy asking how best to tell an anthill that impending doom was coming and they all needed to scram! No better way to get the information to the ants than to become an ant oneself, going straight into the anthill, pleading with them to get out before the disaster struck.

The only problem with that is that not every ant will listen to the newcomer. In fact, maybe only a few will. But that one-on-one discussion between the ants is still the best way to try to save as many as possible from the destruction of the anthill.

Our situation here on earth is that our society is trying its best to destroy our anthill from the inside out. We need not look for bogeymen from without, some giant anteater, to come and wipe us out. No, we're doing a fine job of that all by ourselves, and not just through war, either. Through false paths that lead us to dysfunctional lives, through hatred of ourselves and our brothers and sisters, through addictive forms of entertainment that end up owning us, lock, stock, and barrel. 

All these are things Jesus talked about 2,000 years ago and are still quite relevant to this day.

So why don't the ants listen when the kindly but challenging new ant arrives on the scene? Why don't we listen, even when we can tell that Jesus's message is filled with truth or when He performs a miracle to demonstrate His power and authority?

Willfulness. Sloth. You name it, we've got a million of them. But we can no longer say that we haven't seen, heard, or touched the Truth when it came our way. Because it insisted on coming our way, seeking us out, and making itself known.

Find me a person who has actually read Jesus's words on any number of subjects. Then ask them where they think He's wrong. Chances are, they will always give Jesus a pass but, if they don't want to accept Him right now, they will blame the church, other Christians, or something else more easily assailed.

But His words ring true and always have. And what we miss, except maybe at Christmastime, is that He really did care enough about each one of us to come and be among us, as one of us, in order to share those words of truth so that we might not be earthworms or trapped ants forever.

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Fantastic, Stephen. Thanks.

What struck me recently is that the incarnation makes no sense to unbelievers. If God is in fact the great cosmic meany that atheists and others blame Him for being, why would He bother coming down among us worms? (We have had ant infestations at both our church and our house following recent torrential rainstorms here. I've spent time pitilessly killing them, not reasoning with them. They make a mess and they won't listen to me.)

In fact, as I think of it, why send any prophets at all? Why not just give the Ten Commandments and slay anyone who disobeys them, for as long as you want? ("I gave you the rules, and you blew it." Zap!) More than that, why get born and raised, obeying parents you yourself created, then tromp around with Twelve Guys Who Don't Get It for three years, and finally suffer and die willingly?

A teaching post, say, alongside Rabbi Gamaliel, would have been a lot more convenient.

But instead we get this story of a birth precipitated by a hated emperor, occurring in the most humble of humble circumstances, announced by those with a reputation for lying and tall tales, and causing the slaughter of innocent children. Wouldn't it have been easier to be born in the palace, perhaps on the heels of the overthrow of Herod?

Naw, the whole thing's galactically stupid...

- unless God really does love us so much and want us to be with Him so much that He is willing to go through Hell on Earth for us.


Wow. Great allegory. Thanks for sharing.

anne morse

We're destroying ourselves through war? Since when?

Jason Taylor

We understand it better then we think. Don't we all remember all those stories of a great and mighty man disguising himself as a commoner, to encourage his soldiers. Or to see injustice first hand so he can rectify it. Or to court a peasant girl. Or merely to avail himself of pleasures not allowed to the mighty. Why is it that, those stories are always told, unless they somehow strike a chord.

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