Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Scandal of the Incarnation

I can still remember the first time I read Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen and encountered his reflections on the Incarnation. I felt as if my world expanded and deepened in that one moment. I had never thought of the Christ Child in just that way. The short article below was written by me more than ten years ago and I come back to it each Advent.


We worship a God who became a baby! A baby who cried, dirtied His diapers, and nursed at His mother’s breast. We like to think that the Christ child was always clean and never cried. We picture a sterile piety, in spite of the ox and ass in our nativity scenes. Artwork avoids the depiction of the babe at His mother’s breast. It is hard enough to picture God with a mature, powerful, human body. It is even harder to picture Him will little rolls of baby fat on his thighs, and drool dropping from His lower lip. Yet this is our God, this is our Savior!! It is precisely His act of becoming man that brings holiness to the crying of an infant and the nursing of a mother.

The Incarnation is a mystery of the faith. A mystery is a truth that had to have been revealed by God, and whose depths we will never completely comprehend in this life. However, we cannot dismiss a mystery as incomprehensible, and go on our merry way, not giving it another thought. It is through contemplation of the mysteries that we come to know Christ. Therefore, it is the job of each and every mature Christian to contemplate each of the mysteries of the faith. In fact, Holy Mother Church won’t let us get away with not doing it. Which is why she gives us Advent and Christmas so that we will dwell in the mystery of the Incarnation.

When we first set out to contemplate the Incarnation, we begin to see it’s absurdity, it’s irony, the scandal that it causes in our minds and hearts. God becoming man, taking on a human nature in the womb of Mary, is an amazing event. If it doesn’t strike us as an awesome gift, then we are not seeing clearly God’s magnificence and our own insignificance.

Fulton Sheen expressed this paradox of the God-man in his book called Life of Christ:

No worldly mind would ever have suspected ---
Would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm Him with their breath...

Would one day have tiny arms that were not long enough to touch the huge heads of the cattle…
Would be dumb;
Would be wrapped in swaddling clothes;
Would lie in a manger.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reindeer Games

Speaking of cultural illiteracy...

My three kids just saw the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon... not the lame one on Netflix, the one I grew up with which we checked out of the library..and here is their analysis:

A: I like the Papa. He didn't want the other reindeer to make fun of Rudolph so he gave him a black nose. The Papa probably had a red nose when he was little, too.

D: (singing the Rudolph song) Dancer and Prancer, Rubard and Cubard...
A: Are those the names the reindeer called Rudolph?

And on the subject of Christmas specials from my childhood, my kids have still not seen The Charlie Brown Christmas special, which was one of my favorites growing up. They have heard the soundtrack, but that is only because it doesn't contain all the meanness. Seriously, those kids are pretty mean to Charlie Brown, and since these Kennedy kids have been pretty sheltered...well, we didn't want to give them any ideas. Know what I mean?

Now, should I introduce them to Frosty and the Little Drummer Boy?....If I do, I'll let you know if they have any profound observations.