If there is one thing (there isn’t just one obviously, this is just a witty phrase) that I have learned during the last five years as both a Biblical Studies major (now with a degree) and now a Seminary student, it is the importance of the human experience. Experience is the lens through which we all encounter this event in our lives that we call “God.” While I am generally pretty orthodox in my theology, I cannot get past the truth of this basic observation. Despite all that I read and hear from my peers, contemporaries, and even some individuals with more degrees than I will ever hope to have, there is something extremely valid about the human experience.
But what does this have to do with Advent?
Advent validates the human experience.
The Gospels (specifically those two that actually have Advent-esque stories in them, you know, Matthew and Luke), contain a story of a God who becomes human. When you begin to really dig into the implications of this story, things get a little scandalous.
Jesus, the God-man, is born, just like you and I, to a human mother in a specific point in time. Mary, an unwed mother (who either conceives via the Holy Spirit or with the help of some man who isn’t her husband), gives birth to this normal, plain ‘ole baby that she names Jesus. This baby is born into a dirty stable out behind a packed inn. Regardless of whether or not this is how it actually happened (or if it even happened at all), this baby being born to an unwed mother in a filthy lean-to is supposed to also be God.
Our understanding of God is to be rooted in the story of a crying, dirty, poopy baby.
This baby goes on to grow up, and presumably during that growing up experience the full range of the human experience. This kid goes through puberty and is probably kinda awkward around girls sometimes (I mean what teenage boy isn’t?). This kid comes of age and takes on the family profession of working with his hands in a poor, backwoods town. He does all this for thirty some odd years before taking off on an adventure with a group of fishermen, Jewish turncoats, and terrorists.
That all sounds a pretty full and human life to me. But this also God we’re talking about right?
Our understanding of God is supposed to be grounded in the human experience. God experience the full range of human life.
The Incarnation is God’s on great ADVENTure of becoming human. Clement of Alexandria stated it best when he said that, “The Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.” The only way for humanity to truly experience the divine is for the divine to experience humanity. How does something relate to something wholly other? This is the answer to the question “Why the incarnation?”
But it doesn’t stop there.
God goes on an ADVENTure to experience humanity and in that brings humanity along on an adventure to experience God in return. The human experience is fundamentally altered both when God begins to experience it and when humanity begins to experience God.
The incarnation is God saying, “Go, be human, I’ll do it with you.”