Yes, the Santa outfit is still up there in the cartoon. Because it's still Christmas. The liturgical season ends January 6, the Feast of The Epiphany. And the Epiphany is the moment we Christians say we truly understand what just happened - it isn't the final, fizzled squib of Christmas, it's the moment of retrospective insight that lights everything up at last:
The epiphany that unfolds from this freaky incarnation works both ways. If the person and the life of Jesus Christ taught us humans everything we need to know about God, that life also taught God what it is like to be one of us.
Some Christians balk at this notion of God learning. An almighty and omniscient being, they say, doesn't need to learn. But this is part of the story. The story tells us this happened too.
"Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house," the messenger tells Job. "And suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you."
When Job learned that his children had died, he wept. But God did not weep.
The Incarnation remains the corner-stone of my own faith - because it is literally the only way I see myself coming anywhere close to the divine. It is the identification of the Godhead with the human that is the true surprise of Christianity. Not just the inhabiting of our souls but the sharing of our bodies and feelings and, yes, even absence from God. Why else do we weep?
(Photo: An Orthodox Belarussian believer plunges himself into icy waters as part of Epiphany holiday celebrations in Minsk early on January 19, 2010. Scantily clad Orthodox Christians braved freezing temperatures to immerse themselves in ice holes in rivers and lakes to celebrate the Epiphany religious holiday. By Maxim Malinovsky/AFP/Getty Images.)
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