Thursday, December 16, 2010
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
The Incarnation demands great seriousness of us. Of course it does. If God is there, and much more so if God was here, then everything matters. If we don’t feel that deeply, I wonder if we have understood what it means that God was one of us.
But there is a flipside, which I suspect gets underplayed because it appears to stand in conflict with that seriousness and to undermine all serious efforts to live the Christian life. That flipside is that the Incarnation really does demand great levity of us. Let me explain what I mean.
If Christmas is true, which is to say if God really became one of us, walked with us, talked with us, died for us, rose for us (for all of this is encompassed in Christmas, at least in nuce) – if this is true, then it means that God himself has taken up our cause as lost and fallen creatures. His own arm has wrought salvation for him. He has acted on our behalf, and that action is decisive. In Christ, God is good to us; in Christ, we are the recipients of mercy. It is done.
So, all those burdens and anxieties that we carry around are, strictly speaking, no longer ours to carry. How can we have any ultimate concerns if God is for us in this way, if he has taken up our cause in this way? Our apparently legitimate concerns and our obviously unfaithful fears are equally taken out of our hands. He bears them. He is for us.
The Christian is a serious person. He knows that his actions and decisions have significance, that they take place in a world that is full of meaning. But there is also a lightness to the Christian, because he knows that his actions and decisions do not have ultimate significance. He knows that although he must walk, he is ultimately carried. And so his seriousness, which may express itself in serious sorrow and serious joy – and certainly serious resolution and action – as the occasion demands, will sometimes give way to laughter that can’t be controlled and a smile that goes beyond the circumstances.
Let nothing you dismay.