Marooned in their homes, many Americans made the best of the early days of the pandemic by sorting through old boxes of family artifacts. One Saturday morning in March 2020, Dan Larsen and his wife were doing just that when they discovered the world’s only verified photographic image of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith Jr. Larsen, […]
God becomes human. How weird is that? We are so accustomed to the sweet baby in the manger, the innocent and non-threatening infant. But according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others, there’s more going on here. Frederick Buechner once wrote that until we have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we’ve missed the point.
These last few Tuesdays at Flunking Sainthood, we have gone through the Advent season with Bonhoeffer’s devotional God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas. We’ve looked at waiting, mystery, and redemption. Now, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas this weekend, our theme is incarnation. This week, we’ll all have PTSD after the shock of God showing up in a pile of straw.
I love the way Eastern Orthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green captures the scandal of the baby Jesus in her book At the Corner of East and Now. In fact, I loved it so much that I included a snippet from it in the Bonhoeffer devotional. She writes:
America is far from spiritually monolithic, but the vast backdrop of our culture is Christian, and for most of us it is the earliest faith we know. The “idea of the God-man” is not strange or scandalous, because it first swam in milk and butter on the top of our oatmeal decades ago. At that age, many things were strange, though most were more immediately palpable. A God-filled baby in a pile of straw was a pleasant image, but somewhat theoretical compared with the heart-stopping exhilaration of a visit from Santa Claus. The way a thunderstorm ripped the night sky, the hurtling power of the automobile Daddy drove so bravely, the rapture of ice cream–how could the distant Incarnation compete with those?
We grew up with the Jesus story, until we outgrew it. The last day we walked out of Sunday School may be the last day we seriously engaged this faith.
That last line resonates with me. Christians are encouraged to have a childlike faith, but not a childish one. This Christmas, I’m trying to step beyond the comfort zone of a sweet-baby-in-the-manger faith to more of a scandalous-God-in-Pampers faith.
I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, God bless you this Christmas.