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.
- Sarx — Christian Animal Welfare (organisatie in de UK)
- Sarx — New Testament Greek Lexicon
- Andrew Linzey (1996) Animal Theology
- The Wheat and the Tares – Nicola Hoggard Creegan
- C.S. Lewis (1994) Miracles