Everything is New in 2020 in Light of the Incarnation

Gordon Carkner / Sunday, December 22, 2019


He Comes, God is Coming, Can’t You Feel It?

God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, is embodied in us, is enacted through us and in doing so, trust is forged between word spoken and the reality of which it speaks, between the words we speak and transcendent realities to which we point. The Word became flesh … a human life … a work of art … shaping a new humanism … a new community … a new social imaginary. Integrity is his name. God with us is the hope of a new creation, a new covenant, new purpose, abundant new life.

(Rubens Adoration of the Magi (1609-1629) Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

At just the right time, it was kairos time, richer, deeper, more meaningful than any chronological time. He comes to dwell among us in incarnate human flesh: pulsating corpuscles, arms and legs running to greet us, face filled with compassion, hands breaking bread to feed the masses, words that give life and vision, fuel the imagination about justice, righteousness and passion. Here lies the great invitation to counter nihilism, violence, lies, will to power.

The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before…. What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s [back] fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon. (Jan L. Richardson, Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas)

It is high time to slow down and search the deeper things of life, reach higher than ever before for a transcendent I-Thou encounter with divine Otherness. It is time to ponder the big questions of meaning, purpose and identity as the profound light from heaven dispels darkness and confronts evil. Indeed, there is more here than meets the eye. Where are our best philosophers, historians and scholars, poets and scientists? What say they about the dramatic Christ event? There are clues to a great turn in history: both fulfilment and promise. What kind of thunderous inbreaking is this? What’s the meaning of this virgin birth, this epiphany of grace, these angelic visitations? Advent is a sign of good things to come for Mary, for the Jewish people, for the whole world. It speaks of a new future.

We have touched him with our hands, rubbed shoulders, felt his robust embrace, dined and broken bread together, heard wisdom from his lips that set our minds and hearts on fire. We have been embraced by his care and inclusion, we have captured a mission that drove us to reach the world. It was a compelling message of dikaiosune justice, caritas grace and agape love. Deep calls to deep. We saw him die and rise again, ascend through the heavens. He has inaugurated an economy of grace and goodness, humility and compassion. The pregnant Mary sings her Magnificat, praising an awe-filled, enthusiastic Yes to God’s work in and through her: Things hidden for centuries become so crystal clear this holy night, so completely riveting. Insight and justice have set up a new epistemology, a new way of knowing and being that includes love at its core. We have entered a new world, one where agape love is the main game in town, the infinite game, where peace-making, reconciliation and blessing (shalom) shape our relationships, our posture towards the world.

It is a new playing field, a paradigm shift has taken place, a new human narrative has emerged with fresh interpretations of our raison d’être, our place in the bigger scheme of things. We must carve out new language to capture the wonder of what is happening. Infinite meets finite, like a comet burning through the atmosphere. Divine goodness ushers in hope of healing. A new future is born. Our people have waited and longed for this for centuries, often only in their wildest dreams. Their faith feeds on divine promise to covenant-keeping Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and King David. Once upon a time, we could only hope for such wondrous things. Now they are here, tangible, palpable, life-altering.

You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover who we are, where we are to go, who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time. (John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart)

Christian believers make claim to Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Word (his divine logos) made flesh, embedded among us. God’s speech is embodied, full-blooded, not flat and lifeless, not reductionistic or atomistic, no mere words. It is a sign, a communicative action, much more than the mere letters. It is poetic-prophetic-pedagogical, a profound speech act, full of living spiritual vitality and truth. The language of incarnation leverages the whole world and transforms individuals along with society. It is strategically, intensively integrated with the human story, not a fantasy or figment of the imagination. There is much to grapple with as we see in scholar Jens Zimmermann’s comment.

Christ the creative wisdom of God, and God’s active Word in creation, is enfleshed in the temporal-historical dimension of our world as the concrete Jewish Messiah, Jesus the Christ…. This is the Word through whom all things were made, and the Word hid in the eternal bosom of God, the Word who spoke through the prophets, the Word whose mighty acts defined the history of Israel. In Jesus the Christ this Word has become flesh, and the eternal has become temporal, but without ceasing to be eternal…. In Christ temporality and eternity are conjoined…. In the incarnation, creation, the world, time and history have been taken up into the God-man, who is the center of reality…. Faith and reason are inseparable because their unity is in Christ. (J. Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism)

Divine speech act starts with creation: God spoke and the heavens, the stars, the seas, the plants and trees, all living creatures, man and woman came into existence, in abundance. They continue to do so through his grace: creatio continua. God’s word was enacted in particular places and times in history. It makes space for new drama, new dynamics today, for tragic optimism in our broken world. God has carved out space and time for his presence. When humans are addressed by God, they are drawn up into divine dialogue (Come, follow me). Something profound occurs when they take up such a great opportunity to reason and commune with their Creator, to grapple with this profound reality, to take on Jesus’ yoke. They are identified, loved and valued by their divine mentor and source of self, wisdom and identity.

But God is present in reality no matter what unreality our practice and our ponderings imply. He is forever trying to establish communication; forever aware of the wrong directions we are taking and wishing to warn us; forever offering solutions for the problems that baffle us; forever standing at the door of our loneliness, eager to bring us such comradeship as the most intelligent living mortal cannot supply; forever clinging to our indifference in hope that someday our needs, or at least our tragedies will waken us to respond to his advances. The Real Presence is just that, real and life-transforming. Nor are the conditions for the manifestation of his splendours out of the reach of any of us! Here they are: otherness, openness, obedience, obsession. (The Captivating Presence by Albert Edward Day)

A perlocutionary act is a robust speech act that produces an effect, an existential impact, in those addressed through the speaker’s very utterance. God’s Word has indeed impacted all human culture spheres: Science, the Arts, Ethics and Religion. Brilliant Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar sees the Word of God revealed in three rich and powerful ways: through Creation, Scripture, and most profoundly the Incarnation. These are three different types of language, each powerful, complementary, integral to the divine voice. They open new spaces for human meaning and identity, for new fields of articulacy. They use both traditions of semantic logic, take advantage of the full human linguistic capacity: designative and constitutive. Jesus, the one who became flesh, brought the fullness of heaven to earth and by so doing showed that the Unity of God need not be destroyed when expressed in the multiplicity of the world, including statements, images, concepts, personhood and judgments. He is the ‘Superword’ (Überwort) above all words, the very speech of God (Balthasar). Everything hinges on whether God has spoken; or if the Absolute or Being remains silent beyond all words, as in Zen and contemporary Western Gnosticism.

To have found God, to have experienced him in the intimacy of our being, to have lived even for one hour in the fire of his Trinity and the bliss of his Unity clearly makes us say: Now I understand. You are enough for me. (Carlo Carretto, a desert monk, from The God Who Comes)

In late modernity, the incarnation is God’s megaphone to awaken us spiritually, to call us to fullness of being as the Imago Dei, amidst all our confusion, challenges, conundrums, contradictions and existential struggles. Make room for the God who comes, the God who speaks, the loving God who calls you into his most noble conversation this Advent Season. This changes everything.

Advent is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent… If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time. (Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac)


Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, the Director of Graduate & Faculty Campus Ministries, along with his wife Ute love connecting with future global leaders within the graduate student university community. Through hospitality, biblical investigation, prayer and discussions of faith and academic studies, these students are drawn into kingdom concerns and introduced to God's powerful agape love. This is a transformational experience that builds community at the crux of high achievement passion, loneliness and stress. With a team of faculty, the ministry mines the wisdom of the ages, employing excellent Christian scholarship.



Sent & Sending: Gord & Ute Carkner Sent & Sending: Gord & Ute Carkner

A closer look at Gord & Ute's campus ministry at UBC. 
Read More..

Is there Rational Evidence for the Resurrection? Is there Rational Evidence for the Resurrection?

Some allege that the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax. We must decide whether there is a more plaus...
Read More..

Science & Scientism Science & Scientism

Dr. Ard Louis, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, speaks on "Science and...
Read More..

Re-thinking our Myth of the Secular Re-thinking our Myth of the Secular

Many people seem to be hungry for fresh perspectives on the current Western cultural ethos. Dr. Gor...
Read More..

Transcendent Goodness & Human Hospitality  Transcendent Goodness & Human Hospitality 

What are the theological and philosophical roots or  drivers  of hospitality? From his research on ...
Read More..

The Perils of Radical Individualism The Perils of Radical Individualism

In this webinar, Dr. Gordon Carkner analyses what is at stake in a radical individualist stance. He...
Read More..

The Genius of Truth The Genius of Truth

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, a Meta-Educator with postgraduate students at UBC Vancouver, examines some o...
Read More..

Incarnational Spirituality Series: A New Horizon Incarnational Spirituality Series: A New Horizon

Incarnational Spirituality Series: A New Horizon. Read part one, and find links to the rest of this...
Read More..

Freedom, Identity and the Good: the Theological Ethics of Christian Community Freedom, Identity and the Good: the Theological Ethics of Christian Community

Christian freedom flourishes within a trinitarian horizon. Trinitarian divine goodness proves to be...
Read More..

The Big Question: Why Do We Suffer? The Big Question: Why Do We Suffer?

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner leads an inspiring discussion on this key universal question. He claims that ...
Read More..

Charles Taylor and the Modern Search for Identity Charles Taylor and the Modern Search for Identity

In the modern quest for identity, there is no better place to turn than premiere Canadian philosoph...
Read More..

The Existential Identity Crisis of Millennials The Existential Identity Crisis of Millennials

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner opens this sensitive discussion of Millennial angst from a compassionate stan...
Read More..

Protecting Democracy from the Outside Protecting Democracy from the Outside

John Owen Lecture. Wednesday November 18, 2020 put on by the UBC Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum...
Read More..

Gnosticism vs. the Gospel of Incarnation Gnosticism vs. the Gospel of Incarnation

Gnosticism, both historically and presently, offers a starkly alternative religion to Christianity ...
Read More..

Sy Garte - UBC GFCF Lecture Sy Garte - UBC GFCF Lecture

For the benefit of you and your friends and family, here is the Sy Garte lecture from Thursday, Oct...
Read More..

Voices Around the World Voices Around the World

Gordon & Ute Carkner share snippets from letters they've received from past alumni at UBC.
Read More..

Reflections on UBC Comagape Conference Reflections on UBC Comagape Conference

Conversations with a Jewish Professor & UBC Students. These are Gord Carkner's reflections on the r...
Read More..

 Charles Taylor and the Modern Quest for Identity Charles Taylor and the Modern Quest for Identity

Pre-eminent McGill University Emeritus Philosopher Charles Taylor is an iconic international schola...
Read More..

Everything is New in 2020 in Light of the Incarnation Everything is New in 2020 in Light of the Incarnation

God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, is embodied in us, is enacted through us and in doing so, t...
Read More..

OC Reads: One Thousand Gifts OC Reads: One Thousand Gifts

OC Reads: Book Recommendations from OC Team Members. Read Gord Carkner's recommendation for An...
Read More..

The Prayer of a Student Skeptic The Prayer of a Student Skeptic

Dear God, Buddha, Allah, Plato, Krishna, Beings from other planets, Jesus, Confucius, Zeus, Ra, the...
Read More..

The Great Escape from Nihilism The Great Escape from Nihilism

This book is about a journey: out of the confines of nihilism into the heart of meaning. It presses...
Read More..

Campus Ministry Campus Ministry

Sparking lively dialogue about the powerful implications of the Christian faith for academic work ...
Read More..

Dialogue on Jesus Dialogue on Jesus

There exist today in the minds of people many different versions of Jesus. Cultural interpretation ...
Read More..


The Forum Lecture Series at UBC
The upcoming, online lecture series from UBC Graduate and Faculty Christian Forum for the 2022-2023 school year. 
Engaging the University
An intro video to Graduate Christian Union at University of British Columbia.
Rescuing the Lost Language of Meaning
Some elements in modern culture have worked to repress/restrict our language usage--in particular what Charles Taylor calls the 'meta-biological', the language of significance. Restricted language means necessarily limi...
Sent & Sending: Gord & Ute Carkner
A closer look at Gord & Ute's campus ministry at UBC. 
Is there Rational Evidence for the Resurrection?
Some allege that the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax. We must decide whether there is a more plausible alternative than an actual physical, bodily resurrection. Much hangs on the answer.
Science & Scientism
Dr. Ard Louis, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, speaks on "Science and Scientism" in this online webinar. Dr. Paul Rowe, from Trinity Western University, speaks on "The Appeal of Caesar: the...


2 - 7201 72 Street Delta BC V4G 1M5