journey to bethlehem
Actors portray the manger scene at Journey to Bethlehem/SpokaneFAVS File photo

Do you believe in Christmas?

By Christi Ortiz

Sometimes when I see those quaint little manger scenes, I just want to shake us and say, “This is crazy!” God as a baby!?  Ridiculous! Born of a woman? Nah.  Coming as a full-grown powerful king, a walking, talking adult, maybe, but a defenseless baby? Crazy.  It doesn’t seem compatible with our notions of God. Remember the booming, powerful voice of the God of Genesis that creates a universe so huge we can’t even comprehend its magnitude?  It seems laughably paradoxical to say, “God created the heavens and the Earth and then became a small zygote the size of a seed.” What?!

The Incarnation, more than any Christian theological concept has continued to baffle me. I am just as much perplexed as awed by the idea of God’s marriage to humanity in flesh and blood.  As much as it seems impossible and breaks my head trying to understand, I can’t deny that its mystery is one of the most enticing and hope-filled proclamations that I have heard.  I greatly appreciate the depth of wisdom from many religious traditions.  And yet, Christianity has held out this radical and profound belief like a dazzling ornament, dangling before me, attracting me to its beauty and wonder.  Such a preposterous claim as a God-Man figure draws me in like the mysterious refractions of light bouncing off a glistening globe hanging from the tree that signifies the hope of Christmas for which it stands.

No other religion dares to believe in a God that is both fully God and fully man. How can this be?  The Philippians kenosis seems to impossible to believe.  How could God be human? Or even more striking, why would God become human?  Couldn’t God save us from ourselves without becoming one of us?  My other creeds all seem to point to yes. Of course God could.  So it wasn’t a necessity, but a choice.  Sure I can see dwelling among us, but becoming one of us? Crazy. No wonder it sounded blasphemous. Thinking God did not just dwell in but became human; to think the Divine could be contained in our limited, small, frail humanity does seem to profane the Sacred. Even if we had not tarnished our true nature, or failed to live up to our full image and likeness of God, it still seems too humble an undertaking to become human.  Even if we were sinless, our constrained facilities seem too small for God to dwell.  And yet, perhaps it’s only in the becoming one with us, that God enters into the very depths of our falling nature to bring us home, to raise us to the dignity and calling for which we were born.  For truly our most unique and signature trait as humans is our free will.  And for will to truly be free, it must have the capacity to choose good, to choose Love, and to choose it’s alternative.  And free will is essential for Love.  Love that is forced is not love at all.  Love by it’s nature is freely given and received.  And I believe our capacity to love is what makes us created in the image and likeness of God, because I believe God is Love.

The creed of Christmas more than anything seems to show God’s faith in humanity more than our faith in God.  I might have just chosen a do-over.  Wipe the slate clean and start fresh.  Maybe make perfect ones this time around.  Why be born into a dark, cold night to bring light? Why be subject to a cruel, sinful world to bring mercy? Why become a helpless, powerless baby dependent on humanity to be kept alive?  Why would the creator choose to become one of her creations?  Having faith in this means having faith in humanity.

When I look across the geopolitical, social landscape it’s hard to believe our humanity was chosen; that our humanity was not a mistake.  Of course, God knew what we would do.  And still chose us anyways.  And not only chose to create us but becomes one of us.

The Garden of Eden was not just a pilot group, an experiment to see if this whole free will thing would work out.  It was built into us with the full knowledge of both the extreme beauty and wonder and suffering and hatred we could create.  And God still chose us.  With the full knowledge that our free will could never take us further than her love could reach.  We could never stray further than his grace could redeem.  The Incarnation is an eternal covenant of love.  A love that gives of Itself for the beloved.  A love that paves the way, that brings light to the darkest of places and hope to the saddest corners of our humanity.  It is the life assurance policy that conquers death.  An example that teaches us what true love really is.  A gift that reminds us of our dignity, our true nature, our potential. Our calling in life is love.  Pure and simple and beautiful as a newborn baby.

If this is true, it is the most powerful beacon of light and hope for humanity that I can think of.  And if God isn’t giving up on humanity, neither can I.

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Frank L Bender

I believe in having a good party to liven up the darkest, coldest, time of year (as did the early pagans).

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