The paradox of the incarnation
Warm wishes & Christmas Day reflections from Kierkegaard
Our family has spent the past few weeks in Argentina. It’s been a lovely time to decompress, rest, and enjoy the company of loved ones with movies, and enjoy some Argentine Malbec and steak.
It’s extraordinary how restorative time away from our phones and computers can be — it’s as if the soul heals itself when digitally disconnected.
This Christmas Day, our family has done what it often does, and has been reflecting on the words of 18th century Danish existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855).
In 1847, reflecting on the Incarnation, he wrote that
“The yawning abyss of quality in the difference between God and man, or the *infinite qualitative distinction,* has been removed."
The fact that God became man in the birth of Jesus Christ was significant to Kierkegaard, as a Christian (as it is for our family).
Christ becoming man meant that we have hope beyond a life of the anxiety and despair that defines much of the human condition and temporal existence. Christ’s incarnation bridged the abyss, created by man’s fallen nature—the “infinite qualitative distinction” that permanently separated man from God.
He called the birth and incarnation of Jesus Christ— that which Christmas traditionally celebrates, “the Absolute Paradox.”
A paradox is an apparent contradiction that is actually true. The word derives from the Greek “para” which means distinct from,” and doxa, which means “belief” or opinion. A paradox defies belief or expectation.
The God Man defies reason.
Jesus was born by woman. He ate, drank wine, slept, wept, and suffered, as we all do. He died, as we all one day will. Christ inhabited our humanity. He became flesh incarnate.
He was all man *and* all God.
This resists logical explanation. But for Kierkegaard —and for our family — it was true. That it couldn’t be proven didn’t make it any less true. It was an experiential or existential truth that gave his life meaning.
Kierkegaard understood that something infinite separated god from man, and yet still became man. A paradox. Human beings themselves are defined by greatness and wretchedness, as Blaise Pascal wrote. A paradox.
But both hopeful ones.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!
I hope that you find meaning and richness this Advent with your cherished family and friends.
I’m thankful you’re part of this community where we can continue to question, learn, and grow together— and I look forward to continuing to do so along side you into 2025!