Last week I said that I would be exploring the aesthetic of the Christ event in the coming weeks. And, so, that is what I am starting today: why is the story of Jesus compelling?
Also last week, I made the claim that the God imagined by St. Thomas (and others) would, should she exist, have to inhabit our linguistic constructions. I asked, “what kind of Incarnation is that?”
I’m no theologian. I’m certainly no biblical scholar. I am, however, studying rhetoric in graduate school. And so, of course, God tends to appear, for me, in language.
I suppose others will preach on Christmas that the Incarnation is special because God himself has been made flesh.
That Jesus-as-God was weak and hungry and depressed.
That Jesus-as-God was tempted and suffered and got angry.
Like all of us, broken wretches that we are.
But I don’t know. How could I? All we have are the stories.
And I suppose that is what interests me more about the Incarnation.
It’s not even the brazenness of the claim, though that itself is shocking enough!
It’s the story—meaning constructed from the temporal web of words.
It’s the kings who leave wealth and power to worship a child in a barn.
It’s Herod, afraid of losing his power to a peasant kid.
It’s shepherds who leave their livelihoods in search of a baby.
And the teenage-single-mother who gives birth.
And her fiancee who sticks with her.
It’s the upside-down-ness of the whole thing.
The challenge thrown down by the story itself to the stories all around it.
It’s persuasive—compelling to its audience—because it isn’t a polemic.
Or a proclamation.
Or an assertion.
It’s a story.
And stories persuade and compel because stories are tied directly to what it means to be human—what it means to experience the disjunct between what is and what should be.
And God is here—brought into existence by our severely limited and unstable linguistic constructions.
And that is why the Incarnation matters.