21 November 2015

advent and the importance of the incarnation

In light of the Advent season nearly upon us, I've been thinking a lot about the importance of the incarnation. Advent is the time of waiting and preparing for Christ's second coming while also preparing to celebrate his first coming. So why does it matter if the Word became flesh, if God became God-with-us? Because it tells us something about who Jesus is, about who we believe in, and who we follow. I am reminded of this in my studies this quarter as we discuss how to approach youth ministry. Andrew Root wrote about the connection of youth ministry and the incarnation in his book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation.

"When the incarnation is discussed in connection to relational forms of youth ministry, it is often discussed as God's strategy or plan, making it possible for us to cut off the incarnation from the incarnate One. We often assume that being incarnate means being present in such a manner that we earn the leverage to influence others, as though God in heaven decided that incarnation was the best way to influence humanity. This position holds that God used God's humanity to convince people to accept God's message; it denies that the message itself is God's humanity. To think of the incarnation as a tool of influence is to deny the necessity of Jesus' humanity...It would have been just as well if Jesus only appeared human--he only needed to be human enough to influence. But Bonhoeffer has revealed that the incarnation is much more; it is not simply the strategy of God but the very heart of God for creation that opens the very being of God to humanity. If our humanity is to be transformed, we need a fully human God. We need a God who bears our reality and takes it fully into Godself. We need someone to accompany us (share our place) all the way to hell. Speaking of the incarnation as only of strategy for influence cuts free Jesus' humanity, making it possible for him to be only an idea, a logo, and not the who that encounters us within our human situation." (Chapter 4)

Jesus is the one who encounters us within our human situation. He is the one who encounters us in the middle of our relationship turmoil, our miscarriages, our academic studies, our oppression from systemic racism, our racialized society, our fears, and our comings and goings. This is who we are preparing to celebrate in Advent.