“Human Being v Human Doing”
Tuesday 25 December 2018
Some people who are not disposed kindly to the followers of Jesus Christ display a great deal of excitement when they find out that the date on which we celebrate Jesus’ birth, 25 December, might not be the actual date of his birth. When they learn that the early Christians chose this date because it was the date on which their pagan neighbours celebrated the feast of their Sun God, because it was when they observed that the hours of sunlight were beginning to lengthen each year, they gleefully assert that it is all a legend. Let’s allow them their small pleasures.
Those of us who believe in and follow Jesus Christ as saviour and Son of God can see a certain logic in the decision of our earliest brothers and sisters to adopt for the birthday of Jesus the most significant day in the pagan calendar.
The birth of Jesus, for we Christians, is rightfully seen as a matter of monumental consequence. So much so, that it is a central doctrine of our faith. We call that doctrine the Incarnation.
“Stated formally, the Christian doctrine of the incarnation is that at a particular moment in history, God, the second person of the Trinity, the eternally beloved Son, known sometimes as the Logos or Word, took flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and, growing from infancy to adulthood, walked on earth in human form. Yet throughout his birth, life, death, resurrection and final exaltation, this human being, Jesus, at no time ceased to be divine, the second person of the Trinity; nor did he at any time cease to be human; nor did he at any time cease to be one person, albeit a person with both divine and human nature; nor did at any time the divine and the human, the Creator and the creature, cease to be distinct orders of being. In revealing himself in this way, God displayed God’s character, demonstrated the depth and irrevocable extent of God’s love for the world, showed the significance of humanity in God’s eternal purpose, and focused the relationship between the Trinity and creation in a single life, defining the mediation of God to humanity and the representation of humanity to God”. (Christianity: The Complete Guide, p612)
But you already knew that didn’t you?
So, if Christmas is about anything, it is about the Incarnation – and all that that entails.
Today, I just want to reflect one aspect of that detailed description of what Incarnation means. Towards the end of what I just read, we heard the words: “In revealing himself in this way, God … showed the significance of humanity in God’s eternal purpose”. Jesus was indeed a human being and in that very fact, the significance of humanity in God’s eyes is demonstrated very clearly.
The spiritual writer, Richard Rohr, draws attention to this fact and uses a play on words to state that Jesus was a “human being”, not a “human doing“. One of the things that Jesus has exemplified for us is the dignity of “human being” and the deceptiveness of human doing.
By this, he is not suggesting that we should sit around all day and night in total inactivity. What he is suggesting though is that we have in our western culture completely lost the importance of “human being”, human existence, and spend all of our time engaged in activity and distraction, much of which is unnecessary and positively harmful in that it develops within us a sense that the perfect human is one who earns their reward from God, rather than being the recipient of God’s grace, freely given and completely undeserved.
I can’t remember where I heard it, but there is a saying about an elderly priest revealing that in all his years, he never once heard a person on their death bed lamenting that they had not spent more time in their life working. At the moment of death, perhaps being a “human being” seems more important than being a “human doing”.
Give yourself a really valuable Christmas gift this year and reflect honestly on your life and how you use your time. Are you a “human being” or a “human doing”?
Do you spend anytime each day doing nothing and sitting in quiet prayer with God who sent his Son as a human being? Are you a “human being” or a “human doing”?
On a weekly basis, do you allot a significant portion of your time to thank God for blessings received and to align yourself to God’s plan for you? The Bible calls this sabbath. Are you a “human being” or a “human doing”?
Do you carry out a periodic inventory of your life and its direction – say at least once every year? Are you a “human being” or a “human doing”?
Don’t let another Christmas go by without taking to heart the significance of God’s action in sending his Son, Jesus as a human being. Make time in your life to turn to God frequently and faithfully in prayer of thanks and praise. Look at all of those activities that currently seem so important and non-negotiable and ask whether they are all helpful, all necessary. Make room in your life for “being” with God. Consider the words we heard from the St Paul’s Letter to Titus this morning:
“But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”. (Titus 3.4-5)
Pure gift. What is our response?
Fr Allan Paulsen