“The man who is God’s own Word, does not send forth His radiant light from afar, encountering the “darkness” of other men as a king, hero or sage; but the Light that “shines in the darkness” is an ordinary man and gives light to ordinary people. This is incomprehensible, and yet because of it revelation is real and the Christmas gospel is quite different from both the sweet sadness and the false optimism of mere reverie. The Word of God is where we ourselves are, not where we should perhaps like to be, on one of those heights to which by some luck and strong effort we might attain; He is where we really are, whether we are king or beggar, in our torn condition in which we who face death appear–in the “flesh” …
(Karl Barth. “The Word Made Flesh,” In Christmas. Translated by Bernard Citron. [Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1959], pp. 12-13.)
I was gratified that so high an authority has understood the ‘Christmas’ side of divine Incarnation as I tried to articulate it in my last post.
“Therefore the Word can give power to real people in the world, to become the sons of God. Therefore real people can accept Him and believe in Him… He does not appear in the form of an angel nor of an ideal man (how can anyone who is not as real as we are, address us?) but as Paul writes, in “the form of a servant” ( Phil. II.7), so that we who ourselves exist in this form, are able to hear Him. He encounters the riddle of our “darkness” on its own ground.” (Ibid)
However, Professor Dr. Barth, in his usual way, cannot go very long before attempting to move his theology along purely by means of a rhetorical flourish – and I find my agreement mixed with disagreement. By a very strange leap of thought Barth attempts to force Golgotha into the Nativity picture as if the two were inextricably joined:
“We can sum up these comments in this way: Revelation remains revelation by which the veil of divine mystery is rent. In other words, except we see the Cross of Golgatha, we cannot hear the Gospel at the crib of Bethlehem.” (Ibid)
I reject this little tour-de-force (one which I hear all the time from evangelicals at Christmas time). I do see the similarities between the humility of the nativity and the humility of the cross. But this kind of similarity is only the stuff of good homiletics and cannot support valid theological inferences.
I think the ‘wish’ to see Golgotha at Bethlehem is incompatible with a full acceptance of the pre-baptism life and the pre-Calvary Gospel of Jesus. Barth obviously doesn’t agree. So I’ve got some explaining to do (later).