Christmas and the Information Fallacy

Surely did we only let people know, they would change their minds, reform their conduct, and make it right. Surely, except that it simply is not so.

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“The Nativity” Piero di Giovanni. ca. 1406–10. Gallery 952. The Met Fifth Avenue

True, information is indispensable. But by itself it counts for very little. Because we see and hear and understand only what we can. I suspect that God, the Infinite One, that Greater than Which Cannot be Thought, the “Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise” (Hymn No. 424) arrives in Bethlehem, born of an unwed refugee, to make just that point.

“You believe you have placed God at an infinite distance from what is perishable out of respect and devotion; while the truth is that you cannot bear the thought — much less the experience — of God in your world. So, here!”

And so the prophecies and the star and the shepherds and (twelve days later on Epiphany) the wise men — all of that information: Emmanuel, God with us. And (not simply for the sake of coherence or consistency): yes, He Who is born will die, naturally, unnaturally (it hardly matters). God will die. Got that?

Information gold. And we still do not get it.

What we are in need of is not information, but knowledge. We need to know how it is not only possible, but necessary for this God to become flesh; not only possible, but necessary that this God be poor, in need, in turmoil — not at peace, not tranquil, not disembodied, but incarnate. We need to know why His birth announces trouble for (and eventual annihilation of) all principalities and powers.

But to know this we need to reject what we believe we know: Gods cannot be human; Gods cannot suffer; Gods cannot be finite; Gods do not reject power; Gods do not embrace poverty; Gods cannot experience pain; Gods cannot die. These things we know we need to unknow, not because they are based on unreliable information. They are based on the best information. But they are not grounded in the knowledge of the Son of Man.

This we begin to know more fully in Bethlehem.

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