The God of power, as He did ride
In His majestic robes of glory,
Reserved to light; and so one day
He did descend, undressing all the way.
-George Herbert, “The Bag”
Suspend for a moment your disbelief.
Imagine that God became man.
Of course, first we must imagine a few other things to be true. Firstly, that God exists. That somehow or another, this God cast the stars into this universe. And miraculously, that this God made us, humankind, in all our glorious, vulnerable oddity. That this God stamped his very image on our soul. That this God loves us.
Imagine all that we might have been. We were made to live in full hearted satisfaction, to be connected and at peace with God, with creation, and with each other. The life we were given was the Great Gift. We were given noses to smell; salt-water, roses, fresh rising bread. Ears to hear; baby laughter, tumbling mountain streams, soaring music. Tongues to taste; summer berries, cheese potatoes, hot tea. Eyes to behold; sunrises, books, the Ocean. Fingers to touch; to cup the face of the one we love, to feel the warm fur of a beloved pet, to dig into spring-soft soil.
Oh, imagine a world where we danced, and sang, and did math calculations without a hint of shadow.
And we do.
Imagine something went wrong.
And this is not so difficult to imagine.
Something so often falls short. Loving people is hard. The heart-rushing experience leaves us aching for more. The job is finished and that brief sense of meaning evaporates. We strain and grasp for truth and justice, and it slips through our fingers like water. We long for harmony, but there is discord.
Are we stuck?
Remember, though, that loving God. Could that loving God abandon us to misery? Would he put it all right?
Imagine, then, how such a God might go about saving us. Making everything right again.
Could he zap us all, so we all did what was right? So we couldn’t hurt ourselves anymore?
But then we would be deprived of that one thing that makes us like God: the ability to choose.
Could God simply give us a list of rules by which to live?
But rules have never made us right. And how could we in our puny attempts at goodness, ever recover the unsoiled glory we vaguely remember we possess?
No. God cannot zap us. And we cannot try hard enough. Something else must be done.
So, imagine that God came.
The God of the universe, whose image we bear, came to live the perfect life we could not. To walk with us and teach us how things were meant to be. To wrap our injured flesh around Him and make it new. To cast out the darkness through the glory of light.
And imagine how this God might come.
In power? A might king descending from the heavens?
In wisdom? A Socrates of a man with scores of adoring academics?
In wealth? To impress the powerful, and cast pennies at the least of these?
God didn’t come that way.
Imagine God came as a baby. Easily overpowered and crushed. Foolish and inaudible, full of baby squawks. To a backwater corner of the world, to a young girl who was full of passion and wisdom, but invisible to the world that didn’t care about her as a woman. And when he grew, his followers were not the holy looking crowd, but a motley crew: commercial fisherman, IRS workers, quietly wealthy women, the sick, the prostitutes, the questioning priest. A colourful crowd who hungered and thirsted for the wholeness they could imagine but couldn’t grasp.
Imagine these were God’s people.
And what would God do?
Die. Just like you and I will, only on a cross. For a crime he didn’t commit. Only to burst forth in resurrection with the most unlikely of witnesses.
What sort of God is this?
When I imagine such a God, I am aghast.
It is perhaps no wonder that the Apostle Paul wrote that the Jews were offended by this story of God, and the Greeks found it utterly ridiculous.
The incarnation is the most magical of doctrines.
If I were to invent a religion, I think I’d do it differently. But I didn’t invent this story. And thank goodness. It’s oddity bears the mark of reality. As I look at the great cavernous desires I bear, I think nothing but this marvellous, strange, unexpected story could be enough to explain the wildness and wonder of life.
So I shall imagine upon this story till the day I die.
And I shall wonder at this great love God has shown.
May you know this love too.
Love and Peace,