Perhaps the best way for us to dust off this story is to see the incarnation through the eyes of those elders for whom it would have been a revolutionary reversal of expectations. Can we hear it through the ears of those who had heard the expression âSon of Godâ applied only to Augustus Caesar, a powerful king and military leader, and not to an oppressed and poor itinerant? Could we hear it with those who could never have imagined that God would identify himself not with the overcomers or the strong but rather with the hungry, thirsty and imprisoned? Could we hear it with those whose bodies were beaten and broken who would be astonished that God found him fit to become a human body that would be beaten and broken?
The development of the idea of ââuniversal dignity could be understood as the result of an invisible hand guiding societies towards “progress” or even as a series of random accidents. AC Grayling, a British philosopher, argues that the seeds of this concept can be found in the thoughts of Socrates, Buddha and Confucius. Academics like Steven Pinker and Jonathan Israel trace the origins of human rights back to the Age of Enlightenment.
And of course, it is evident that Christians have not always lived up to this radical ethic, as slavers and colonialists have often explicitly taken up Aristotle’s views on “natural slaves” to justify their violence against them. other human beings. But Christians, since at least the second century, have seen the advancement of universal human dignity as the triumph of Christ and his kingdom, gently set in motion by the birth of God one night in Bethlehem.
This is the season in which we remember the scandalous news that the creator of heaven and earth, in the words of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, âemptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the same way. likeness of men âand became obedient until death on the cross. This story continues to offer us an invitation today.
Even now I find myself believing that the world belongs to the overcomers and the powerful. The church, like almost everyone, tends to want to be more like the well-to-do, prosperous, and powerful – more like Augustus Caesar – than one who has become weak, helpless, and despised. We often seek God more in the abundance of gifts under the tree or happiness these days than in the helplessness of a baby, the worry lines of the poor, or the lonely agony of a dying man on a rock. cross. But again this year, this story asks to shock us again and to shake the world once again.
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