The Christmas story is about exactly that. The Incarnation – God becoming Man. Or, to be precise, God becoming Baby! And perhaps that’s the only way it could happen. Maybe the only way in which Jesus could really be amongst us was by starting from scratch, and abandoning everything but the very faintest scrap of personhood, and experiencing birth and growth and change within Time.
Of course, this is all ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’. We who live in time can have no true concept of eternity. But we can speculate, and wonder.
Since I am at heart a story maker, my speculations naturally tend towards that form. As with the following short piece, an extract from a story not yet written, in which I wonder what it might be like for an Eternal being to come into Time.
THE VISITOR FROM BEYOND
He looked around him with a sort of bemused curiosity. A seemingly ordinary man, but with a sense of remoteness about him. He touched things, hesitantly, as if not quite sure what touching was. The clock in particularly fascinated him. He stared at it for a while, tracking the second hand’s rotation, before turning to me.
“Is that what time is to you?” he asked.
I shrugged. “It’s how we measure time, that’s all. I don’t suppose you have clocks where you come from?”
He smiled. “We don’t have time. There’s no progression of moment to moment. A clock would be pointless – it would have nothing to measure.”
“It must be difficult for you to understand, then.”
“Oh, I can understand time. The theory of it, at any rate. The problem is in relating to it. Living in it! That’s not easy at all. In fact, it’s only been successfully done once before, and he came into it by a different route. He had to be born into the world to be part of it – and even then it was difficult.”
“But you’ve chosen a more direct route, I see!”
“Of necessity, I’m afraid. And only briefly.” He paused, frowning. “That is the right word, I think. But it’s such a strange thing to say… the fact is, I shouldn’t really be here at all.”
“Why not? Is it forbidden?”
“No. There isn’t any ‘forbidden’ there. It’s not like that. It’s just that there are consequences. My being here has effects that can’t be controlled.” He shook his head. “No, that’s not quite right. It’s so hard to squeeze meaning into your concepts.” He shrugged. “Let’s just say that it could cause problems. And don’t ask me what, because I can’t explain.”
“But you understand these things?”
“Everyone understands, outside. When you go there – it’s like you expand. Everything about you expands. And you understand. No – it’s more like you see.”
“You see things more clearly?”
“Not more clearly. Not even see, really. You are just in touch with reality. You don’t have to question or discuss or speculate or experiment or debate or guess. When the essential ‘you’ slips free of time and space, then ‘what is’ – well, its just there.”
“Is that heaven, then? When you expand into everything?”
He considered the question for a moment, then smiled. “Yes, I suppose it is. At least, the word ‘Heaven’ points towards something like it. But the best picture you can have of heaven is so far from the reality that it distorts as much as it shows. The problem is, it simply can’t be explained. Oh, it’s so limiting, being restricted to time! So frustrating! I don’t know how he stood it for thirty years!”
“Just a minute though… if Heaven is expanding your self infinitely, is there a Hell? Is it a failure to expand?”
He gave me a very sober look. “Not really.”
“Well… For your self to be expanded, there has to be an infinity / eternity to expand in. And that – medium, if you like – that is God. Outside of this little bubble of time-space you call the Universe, there is only God.”
“For those personhoods who have rejected God, who refuse to reconcile to Him – there is nowhere to expand into. There is nowhere to become themselves.”
He stopped abruptly, held up his hands. “Sorry. I shouldn’t be going down that route. I – it’s difficult to remember how to think linearly, how to prioritise – but I must confine myself. Stick to the point. The disruptions caused by my entry into time must be minimized, must be limited by interacting with the smallest possible time-frame.”
I raised an eyebrow. “So you don’t have long, then?”
He smiled. “I have eternity. I just don’t have it here!”
“OK. So – why are you here? What’s worth all the disruption?”
“A problem has arisen. In Time. Or perhaps I should say, with Time.”
“What sort of problem?”
“It’s not a ‘what’.” He stepped closer, and looked at me very intently. “It’s a who. You. I’m afraid that you are the problem.”
To be continued – sometime.