God with us

This Sun­day will be the start of Advent, which prob­a­bly also means the start of Christ­mas stress for all moth­ers in the UK who have to get their fam­i­lies through the fes­tiv­i­ties with enough food, presents and dec­o­ra­tions. No Christ­mas Car­ols and High Street shop­ping for us this year, because we cel­e­brate Christ­mas in Chile.

The com­ing of God as a lit­tle baby is described in John 1 as “The Word became sarx.” The word sarx is dif­fi­cult to inter­pret. The NIV Study Bible uses the lit­er­al trans­la­tion ‘flesh’, with the note: “A strong, almost crude, word that stress­es the real­i­ty of Christ’s humanity.”

I think the term sarx is not lim­it­ed to human­i­ty. Andrew Linzey states that the incar­na­tion is God’s Yes to all of cre­ation. If we restrict this to human beings, we could just as well exclude women and non-Jews because Jesus was a Jew­ish man. Anoth­er the­olo­gian who says this is Nico­la Hog­gard Cree­gan: “Jesus took on human flesh, but in so doing he is also inhab­it­ing the flesh of the earth. To the extent that non-human ani­mals share with humans a suf­fer­ing-con­scious­ness, it is also shared by the Son of Man.”

This more holis­tic view of the incar­na­tion gives us a vision of the redemp­tion of cre­ation. All things were made through Christ, and all things in heav­en and on earth will be uni­fied under Him (Eph­esians 1:10). In the unri­valed prose of C.S. Lewis:

In the Chris­t­ian sto­ry God descends and reas­cends, He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into human­i­ty; fur­ther still, if embry­ol­o­gists are right, to reca­pit­u­late in the womb ancient and pre-human phas­es of life; down to the very roots and seabed of Nature He has cre­at­ed. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.

I hope that as Chris­tians we will be less obsessed with our­selves, and dis­cov­er more and more that God’s love encom­pass­es all of cre­ation. The baby in the manger, among the cows in the sta­ble, might inspire us this year to cook a Christ­mas din­ner that does not require any ani­mal suffering.