Lord of History
Christ's entrance into time changed everything
If you ask people what they think was the most important thing that ever happened in the world, they’ll come up with some fascinating answers. Some will tell you it was the invention of the wheel. Others will plump for the telephone. Others perhaps the discovery of anesthetics.
Few will acknowledge that the Gospel is not just a quaint story about the coming into the world of a Good Man, but that it’s actually the Incarnation – the ‘enfleshment’ – of God himself, and that its fulfilment is the Resurrection of that same Good Man thirty years later. God took our nature upon himself in order that we might be raised up to his divinity. Everything that ever happened before and all that has happened since is utterly dwarfed and transformed by that act of unimaginable generosity.
That act has inspired so much that is good in civilization: grand architecture, noble paintings and statues, uplifting music, powerful and affecting written works, the Common Law itself, the ardent and fearless pursuit of justice and truth in its varied manifestations. People who deny the importance or even the fact of Christ’s coming may quarrel with these claims, but they are surely incontestable: could Bach’s cantatas have been as rich if he hadn’t had God to sing about? Could Shakespeare have come up with a Hamlet or a Lear in a world that had never heard of Christ? Could Michelangelo have carved his Pietà if he hadn’t really believed in it?
I used to lead an annual educational tour of Italy. I recall one man in my group refusing to enter a church to see a famous altarpiece: he said that he was “sick of churches.” The rest of us went in, but he stayed outside sulking. I said to him later that I would write to the President of Italy asking him to relocate all that nation’s art works so that decent people could see them without being offended. My somewhat heavy-handed sarcasm wasn’t entirely lost on him. He did come, though grudgingly, into the next church we visited. He was a nice man and I liked him, but he was blind to so much. I hope he’s seen the Light.