This week we have been celebrating the incarnation. It’s one thing to proclaim that God has been embodied in human flesh, but it’s a completely different thing to understand what that means. If the incarnation is nothing more than an interesting quirk of history, it makes no difference to our lives. But, the incarnation is far more than that. the radical idea that, in the man Jesus, God was present and active in our human world, says an awful lot about God and about us. It tells us things about who God is and what we can expect from God, and it tells us things about who we are as human beings, and what we can expect of ourselves.
Reading: Luke 2:41-52
Reflection: It’s tempting to make more of this scene than the passage suggests. Notice that Jesus is not portrayed as “teaching” the religious leaders (as is sometimes assumed). Rather he listens and asks questions (verse 46). People are amazed at Jesus’ answers and his understanding, but that is always the case when someone so young demonstrates insight and wisdom beyond their years. As Jesus spoke with the teachers in the Temple, this was not a case of God speaking and teaching the human leaders. Rather, it was a case of a boy with a passion for God and a keen mind seeking to learn as much as possible from those who were respected teachers.
Later Jesus would challenge the Temple’s leaders in many ways, but first he had to grasp the law and understand it deeply in order to fulfil it as he was called to do. Although this child was, in some way we may never fully understand, God, he was also very human – just a child who wanted to learn. And as he grew, he remained obedient to his parents until the time came for his ministry to begin. When we make the mistake of overemphasizing Jesus’ divinity, we run the risk of believing that he wasn’t really human – at least not like us. But, if Jesus wasn’t human, then nothing of his life has any real value for us. For our humanity to be transformed through Christ’s teaching, life and death, Jesus must have been fully and completely human – just as we are. And that means that in Jesus we see what human beings can become, if we will only embrace the way of love as he did.
How can you allow Jesus to teach you how to be human today?
Practice for Today: The model that Jesus offers us here is invaluable. Although he had come to fulfil the law, to challenge women and men to become all that God had created them to be, Jesus did not begin by preaching. He started with listening and asking questions. This is always the way to growth and insight. Today, make listening and asking questions – of the Bible and of other people – a focus of your day.
Prayer for Today: What do you require of me today, O God?