Translation and Incarnation


“He is the image of the invisible God…” (Col. 1:15).

Nearly every aspect of life requires translation.

We see a road sign or traffic light and we translate meaning almost instantly. We watch thousands of colorful pixels dance on screens and our brains translate this into moving images that communicate beautifully complex narratives. We observe a great piece of artwork and translate the image to mean something in our own life. We use words and gestures to communicate with others, and they in turn translate those words and gestures (hopefully) into the message we intended.

When we think about the incarnation of Jesus Christ we see God’s ultimate act of translation. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” Like all good translations, God uses the familiar to communicate with us. Flesh and blood are his language and salvation and life is his message. The Christian faith is highly “translatable” because what is offered is not a list of rules or doctrines bound by time and culture; what is offered is a body. Bodies transcend divisions. All of humanity, though divided by time, space, language, and culture, is united in personhood. Therefore, God translates the fullness of his divinity to humanity by becoming embodied. Indeed, no one has ever seen God, but it is God the only Son, the Word made flesh, who has translated God’s salvation.

Praise be to God for his power and wisdom!

In what ways can you translate the message of the incarnation through your words and deeds this Advent season?

The accompanying picture is of the icon entitled “The Incarnation.” How would you translate its message? 

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