God became human: important details that can transform our lives
This God coming as human. It can sound like a charming fable, an ancient myth — a supernatural being shape-shifting, as it were. Except it isn’t — not when we examine the details.
I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I have never been good with details, being more of a bottom-line kind of person. But details I found, are what give definition, nuances, depth, contrast, shape, and contours, and thus we are flat and short of truth without them.
I’m immensely grateful to come to appreciate details — a habit that requires another: slowing down.
One place where we are likely to speed is the familiar. Whether roads, relationships, or reading, we tend to scan, skim and satisfy ourselves with presumption instead of slowing down to be surprised, to sense what is going on with our feelings thoughts, and beliefs.
So I invite you to slow down with me and consider some details about this God-become-human story and let the details take you deep, wide, and further in your understanding this Christmas.
The big word we use is Incarnation. (Again I am embarrassed to say the first time I heard the word I thought of the milk brand, for evaporated milk was a rare treat savoured with the ice dessert, ice kachang*, when I was very small).
As a word, incarnation refers to an embodiment and is used in casual speech like the word iteration or versions. It also appears in the Buddhist and Hindu belief in reincarnation, so someone may be described as ‘thinking he is a warrior in his previous incarnation’ (this eg. from Cambridge online dictionary).
In Christian theology, the word is highly specialized actually. It refers to God taking on human form, in a very particular way. God does not energize an existing human person or overtake one, like some religious concepts where an esteemed higher-order spiritual being returns as a child. Rather, God chooses to subject the second person of his Triune Being to a process he created: conception and birth.
This means an ordinary, average human person — who is also divine.
It is a conundrum. How does one be fully human and fully divine? Is it all at once, or is he divine at moments?