Friday, November 19, 2004

The Incarnation as a Mirror

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has offered his Christmas message. His words have stretched my understanding of the Incarnation in ways that I'm not sure I am able to speak about yet.

He tells of observing a therapist working with an autistic boy. When the boy became overwhelmed by external stimuli, and began to retreat into repetitive, and sometimes violent behaviors, the therapist mirrored each of the actions. Over a few days, the boy came to see this mirror as a connection with the external world that was safe, and even controllable. A relationship was born, and the healing process began.

Archbishop Williams suggests that in some ways our relationship with God, and specifically as God made manifest in Jesus Christ, is quite similar;

...Christ does not save the world just by his death on the cross; we respond to that death because we know that here is love in human flesh, here is the creator's power and life in a shape like ours. As we read the gospels, we should think of God watching us moment by moment, mirroring back to us our human actions - our fears and our joys and our struggles - until he can at last reach out in the great gestures of the healing ministry and the cross. And at last we let ourselves be touched and changed.

That's what begins at Christmas. Not a doctor coming in with a needle or a surgeon with a knife, but a baby who has to learn how to be human by watching; only this baby is the eternal Word of God, who is watching and learning so that when he speaks God's transforming word we will be able to hear it in our own human language. He is God so that he has the freedom to heal, to be our 'therapist'. He is human so that he speaks in terms we can understand, in the suffering and delight of a humanity that he shares completely with us. And now we must let him touch us and tell us that there is a world outside our minds - our pride and fear and guilt. It is called the Kingdom of God.
There's something here beyond the words that I need to let sink in a bit more; something that feels significant. I'm going to ponder this a bit longer before saying more.


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