Originally posted December 20, 2010.
We who advocate for creation care tend to overlook some important connections between the central beliefs of the Christian faith and our obligation to care for the world God has placed in our hands. Christmas – when we celebrate the Incarnation, literally the ‘enfleshment’ of God in human form – is one of those overlooked connections. The following is an excerpt from my book, Our Father’s World, chapter 3:
In middle-school and early high school, one of my children went through a serious “I have a crush” phase. Her idol was a singer with a popular contemporary Christian music group. An enormous poster hung over her bed, and every song he released was purchased, listened to, memorized and sung – over and over and over. One year the group was scheduled to sing in Chicago, just three or four hours from Madison. And it happened that the concert was close enough to my daughter’s birthday that we could make her birthday party be a trip to see her idol on stage. So we bought the tickets. We even paid a bit extra so that she and her friends could stand in line before the concert to meet him in person. The great day came and everything, for once, went off without a hitch. We arrived at the concert venue in good time, stood in line, got our autographs, put in the earplugs, and enjoyed the concert. It was a highlight of her young life. My ears are still ringing.
Now suppose – just suppose – that this singer came to Madison, and he heard that his Number One fan lived in our house, and decided to visit. What would have happened? There is no question that his visit would have lifted my daughter to the rafters and beyond. “Exalted” wouldn’t begin to describe it. We would have been forbidden to use the chair he sat on, and there would have been no question of putting his cup or plate back into regular circulation. Everything that he touched would have been something special.
When we think of Jesus, the Son of God, coming to earth, we often think of what we might call his “humiliation”. It is not a small thing for the all-powerful creator of the universe to adopt the form of a creature, but that is exactly what happened:
[Jesus,] being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. [Philippians 2:6-8]
Something else is just as important, though. When he came down, he raised us up, and all of creation with us. He lived here, in our house. When he walked down the street and sat in the shade of a tree, his presence was honoring and exalting the dirt, the grass, the tree, the sky. And of course it did. If my daughter’s idol, the singer, had actually come to our house, the effect would have been purely imaginary. Whatever fame and reputation this man has is purely ephemeral and is already fading. He is no more worthy of praise and honor than I am – or than my daughter herself. Not so with Jesus. He made the dirt, the grass, the trees and the sky. When he arrived, everything changed.
In the last chapter we saw creation as a temple – a cosmic worship space where a divine-human relationship can be pursued. In Jesus we see God himself is walking the aisles of that temple, not just standing behind the altar. This is God as one of us: eating and drinking, laughing and playing, walking and talking, sleeping and working. Before, we heard God say that “it was good”; now we can see God himself enjoying creation.
It must be good, and it must be worth taking care of.