There has been a cartoon doing the rounds on social media lately: a stable scene, with Mary saying “It’s a girl!” and the caption is something like “What else could go wrong in 2020?” It seems very popular among people I know, and people keep sending it to me. And I hate it so much.
This Advent, I have been reading Nicola Slee’s essay ‘Re-imagining Christ as the Coming Girl: An Advent Experiment’ in her latest book, “Fragments for Fractured Times”. It’s about the importance of allowing ourselves to imagine Christ coming as a girl, to allow our theological imaginations to be shaped by a veiw of God which can conceive of God as a girl, of the incarnation in female form. The girl God is not the butt of a joke, but a profoundly important statement of who can image God for us, where the limits are of how and in whom we will allow ourselves to encounter God. For as long as there are types of bodies – female bodies, queer bodies, disabled bodies, black bodies – in which we cannot imagine the incarnation taking place, there will be people whom we do not truly see as made in the image of God. This is the theological driver behind feminist images of the Christa, as it is behind black theologians’ work on the figure of a black Jesus. If it is wrong to look for the incarnation in a girl’s body, if Christ coming as a girl is something “gone wrong”, then do we really imagine girls to be fully, God-createdly human at all? Much in our culture (including that cartoon) suggests the answer ‘no’ – but I think God wants to give a resounding ‘yes’.
R.S. Thomas is no feminist theologian, but I suspect he would have no problem with these ideas (and I bet he wouldn’t share that cartoon either!). In today’s poem we see Thomas embracing an expansive understanding of incarnation, which encourages the reader to see the Christ whom we meet in the manger in all sorts of other forms and places too, and so expand our encounter with the living God.
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading “Frequencies of God: walking through Advent with R.S. Thomas” by Carys Walsh. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AdventBookClub or on Facebook by searching for the group ‘Advent Book Club’.