In this Autumn season there is a ‘falling’, as we watch the leaves make their descent, swirling and twirling in the breezes. In this time we also celebrate the gathering of the harvest, giving thanks to God for the provision of the earth in all its goodness and abundance.
Incarnation is a lovely word which describes a kind of ‘falling’ – the falling or descent of God to earth… the revelation of God in our material world. We often use the word in relation to Jesus as one who makes God known to us. But there is an incarnation which preceded the Bethlehem birth, and that is the very act of creation when God pours out himself into every material thing. ‘It is good!’ God acclaims in Genesis 1 and St. Paul in Romans 1 writes ‘ ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made’. Sometimes I think we don’t really catch what St. Paul is saying here!
This prior incarnation is still with us, and we have opportunity to see each new day God with us – right in front of our eyes. In every little thing, and big thing, God is here. We just need to see… and that’s the problem for many of us. We see, but we don’t see. Jesus would make a similar observation in the gospels – and it’s true for us today. Yes we see creation – the trees, the vegetation, the ponies, the cattle, the fish, and clouds in the skies… but perhaps we don’t see. They just pass us by!
The Christian faith is an incarnational faith. It is founded on God making himself visible, touchable, and it is accessed first and foremost by our experience of it. By this I mean how it makes me feel – when I pat my pet dog Nahla, when I taste the beetroot in the salad, when I feel the sun rays on my back or the raindrops on my face – these experiences are the doorways, the windows into absorbing the very presence of God into me.
Clearly we are lost for words when we try and sum up this in any description. This is beyond our language – although we do give it a real good go! But as we absorb this presence something very real happens in us. The Russian author Leo Tolstoy describes it as ‘something that had been slumbering, something that was best within, suddenly awakes joyful and youthful’. Here Tolstoy is describing the experience of one of his protagonists, Andrew Bolkonsky, in War & Peace experiencing the incarnation. This waking up inside us happens every time we consciously offer gratitude for the ordinary material bits of life. And that’s what we do as a gathered community at Harvest.
And the ‘falling’ of the leaves this autumn reminds us that the incarnation of creation never stands still – it is still unfolding even when it looks as though it’s coming to an end!