Richard Rohr, (May 31, 2015 subscription meditation) describes “incarnation” from the perspective of Franciscan spirituality. Following is my summary of his meditation.
The mystery of Incarnation is the trump card (though sometimes hidden). Incarnation literally means enfleshment, yet most of Christian history has, in fact, been excarnational–in flight from matter, embodiment, physicality, and this world. This avoidance of enfleshment is much more Platonic than Christian. Incarnation means that the spiritual nature of reality (the immaterial, the formless, the invisible) and the material (the physical, the forms, that which we can see and touch) are, in fact, one and the same! And they always have been, ever since the Big Bang, which scientists estimate happened around 13.6 billion years ago. “God’s Spirit hovered over” creation (Genesis 1:2) from the very first moment of existence as we know it, setting the trajectory for the rest of creation.
Most Christians were taught to associate the Incarnation only with Jesus’ birth 2,000 years ago. That was perhaps when humanity was ready for a face-to-face encounter, what Martin Buber would call the “I-Thou” relationship. But matter and spirit have always been one, since God decided to manifest God’s self in the first act of creation. Modern science (especially quantum physics and biology) is demonstrating that this is, in fact, the case. Where does this endless drive toward life, multiplication, fecundity, creativity, self-perpetuation, and generativity come from, except from Something/Someone we call an indwelling “Spirit”?
Unfortunately, many Christians believe that the world is messed up and Christ is the solution. This “substitutionary atonement theory” of salvation treats Christ as a mere Plan B. God saw that we had screwed up. Creation was not seen as inherently sacred, lovable, or dignified. We are still trying to undo this view of God and reality.
By the modern age most Christians acted as if the only real rationale for the Divine Incarnation was to produce a human body that could die and rise again. It did not matter much what Jesus exemplified, taught, revealed, or loved. Things like simple living, non-violence, inclusivity–which are now proving necessary for the very survival of the species–were ignored. Christians focused instead on the last three days of Jesus’ life and his freely offered quarts of blood. Jesus became a highly contrived problem-solver for our own guilt and fear instead of the Archetypal Blueprint for what God has been doing all the time and everywhere. Jesus became a mere tribal god instead of the Cosmic Lord and Savior of history itself (Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:3-14). Christianity ended up just another competing and exclusionary religion instead of “good news for all the people” (Luke 2:10b. We all lost out.