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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why an Incarnation? A Fanfare for Humanity

The question is asked: Why an incarnation?  Why did God become enfleshed and dwell among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth?  Why did God, who is perfect and powerful, put aside the trappings of his deity to become weak, and fragile, and even subject to death?  Why an incarnation?

And I must admit that I don’t really know.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
-I Wonder as I Wander - John Jacob Niles-

I admit that I don’t know why God would do such a thing – I mean, I know the answers that I've been taught (He came to save us from our sins, He came to teach us how to live, etc… etc… etc…) but if I am honest with myself and with you, I have to say that I don’t know why.  

I’ve been thinking recently about fanfares – the brass and percussion flourishes played before the entrance of kings or at the commencement of important events.  The word “fanfare” comes from the French word fanfare and from the Spanish fanfaron and has the connotation of a “braggart” or “showing off.”

Fanfares were written and performed to draw attention to the entrance of royalty.  ‘Look! Look over here!  Give your attention to this noble personage!’  Fanfares were for kings and queens and princes and princesses, for conquerors and warriors.  Fanfares were for heroes and victories, for important events and wonderful things.

But in 1942 the American composer, Aaron Copeland, wrote The Fanfare for the Common Man.  This was not a musical flourish to draw attention to the arrival of royalty.  This was not a musical braggadocio for a president or king.  Copeland’s fanfare was a solemn honoring of the dignity and worth of garbage collectors and tailors, of school teachers and retired factory workers, of single mothers and farmers.  The Fanfare for the Common Man is a fanfare for the lowly, the ordinary, the “on’ry”, a fanfare for the 47%. 

And I think that Jesus’ incarnation is like this fanfare for the common man. 

He came to say, ‘Pay attention to these noble beings – humanity. Look at these wonders.  Celebrate their worth.’

He, who was with God and was God, did not consider his equality with God something to be exploited; he who could have come to us with fanfares and flourishes of his own came instead as a weak and fragile, and vulnerable baby.  God incarnate to be a fanfare for us.

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