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Blog // Thoughts
December 17, 2005

Advent: What Do We Really Celebrate At Christmas?

As we round the corner towards the final week of Advent, it is worth asking what specifically we are celebrating at Christmas. Sure there are lots of church services, lot of candles, lots of familiar carols, but what is the key point? We hear a lot about peace, love and “glad tidings” at this time. […]

As we round the corner towards the final week of Advent, it is worth asking what specifically we are celebrating at Christmas. Sure there are lots of church services, lot of candles, lots of familiar carols, but what is the key point?

We hear a lot about peace, love and “glad tidings” at this time. These are good things to be reminded of, but in a sense they are a part of lots of other stories that make up the Christian narrartive. At Christmas, however, we are reminded of one particular theological insight, something called incarnation.

Basically this means that God chose to take on a human form to communicate to us. In particular, and this is the bit that is often missed, God chose to work with what was available within the culture of the time. Take another look at the Christmas story, there is lots of mystery and amazing things, but also there are a lot of very ordinary people responding from within their abilities and circumstances to what God is doing. That’s incarnation.

Incarnation is about God taking on human form, human flesh. But it doesn’t just stop with Jesus. Read the New Testament and you find lots of fleshy metaphors used to describe the Church.

This matters for us today because many churches today advertise themselves in the language of vision and radical change, which suggests radical discontinuity with our current context. Such a view is not really Christian in a historical sense and is probably closer to a magical worldview.

Not that the Christian life is without surprise and awe, because it is. However, the bread and butter of this existence is very ordinary, very everyday. Going to work, enduring traffic, raising a family, buying the groceries; these things do not suddenly dissapear if one decides to follow Christ.

But transformation can happen, people can change, circumstances can be overcome. However, this happens from within our context and usually with things that are already there. This is incarnation and to think incarnationally is to look around what we already have to answer a challenge, rather than always being focussed on what we do not have.

One of my buddies in ministry was always fond of reminding us in college that all to often we pray for God to bless what we are doing, rather than do what God is blessing. Without doubt this is the heart of incarnational prayer and reflection; looking around to see the hand of God already at work in our midst.

So at Christmas we can either celebrate wishing our circumstances would magically change in a radical way, or we can celebrate hopeful that the things we already see in our lives will continue to bring change.

[tags] Advent, Christmas, Theology and Culture, Incarnation [/tags]

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