“Ever since the coming of John the Baptist the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and violent men are seizing it.”
Remember that one scene in that one movie (it doesn’t matter which) where the building explodes? Fire flashes and plumes of smoke mushroom up and out. Everyone is leaping away and running for their lives. If we were to rewind, to watch the whole scene in reverse, to see the huge gases and fireworks shrink into a tiny stick of dynamite, we might get a tiny picture of what the Incarnation looked like.
Physicists (or, at least the mystics) are still scratching their heads. The Creator became created, and all of creation—even the stars—were involved. The Incarnation is not an abstract ideal. It does not swirl in endless, near-static motion somewhere in outer space. Like an explosion in reverse, the embodiment of God the Son in human flesh was God’s decisive single action in history. It happened only once. It will never be undone. And it has changed everything.
Explosions are loud and showy. But everything about the Incarnation was quiet and lowly. O little town of Bethlehem. By the looks of it no one would have thought this West Bank hamlet would be the birthplace of the promised Messiah. And the baby? Like a stick of dynamite on its own, baby Jesus seemed innocuous enough. Wrapped in swaddling clothes in the backrooms with the donkeys, no one would have suspected this nursing infant to be the divine, fiery Second Person of the Holy Trinity encapsulated, made man. Yet he was. And despite its backwater appearance, Bethlehem was the native city of King David; a city situated just five miles south of Jerusalem and the Temple, it was the obvious birthplace for the promised God-King.
Explosions shatter and destroy. They push everything and everyone away. But the Incarnation restores. It is the beginning of Jesus’ project to draw everything and everyone in, to heal. Christ’s plan is to bring the whole universe, all that is in heaven and on earth, into a unity with himself (Ephesians 1:10). As if by tractor beam, we are all being wooed, drawn into the deepest healing and health imaginable. Like an explosion in reverse, Jesus, the Son of God made Man, lovingly works to piece together what sin has fragmented, to make us whole and holy in him. The Creator is making a new creation, and he’s the first to try it out, the first to really live it, “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). May we now only follow.