God’s Grand Miracle

C. S. Lewis, in 1945, gave a talk at St. Jude on the Hill church in London, a talk that was then published that year. The title given to this presentation was “The Grand Miracle.” Lewis based the talk on the passage in Philippians chapter two that expresses the great humility Christ displayed by leaving Heaven to become a man to suffer and die for fallen humanity.

God becoming man is a grand miracle.

Lewis states,

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, “freed” from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least, the only one I know, with which your could not do that is Christianity.

Lewis then tackles the issue raised by others that the Christian account is just one more story about dying gods. A curious thing, Lewis comments, is that in his younger days he was always attracted to the pagan stories about dying gods, and that when he turned to the Christian explanation of Christ’s death, he was disappointed that the Gospels didn’t seem to emphasize what he termed “the metaphor of the seed dropping into the ground.”

But the deeper his understanding of Christian faith became, he began to see why this was so different. Perhaps the “corn king” of pagan religions is not mentioned in the New Testament because the concept of a corn king was only an image of the reality that came later in Christ. “How if the representation is absent because here, at last, the thing represented is present? If the shadows are absent because the thing of which they were shadows is here?” Why was this principle so prevalent in nature religions? Lewis responds that it was “first there in God Himself.”

We … would so have liked and expected all men to start equal in their search for God. One has the picture of great centripetal roads coming from all directions … getting closer and closer together. How shockingly opposite to that is the Christian story! One people picked out of the whole earth; that people purged and proved again and again. Some are lost in the desert before they reach Palestine; some stay in Babylon; some becoming indifferent.

God is counter-intuitive in His approach to mankind. He doesn’t do things the way we think He ought. Rather than all roads leading to Him, instead He begins the New Covenant with one girl.

As an aside, the painting here of Mary and the angel, The Annunciation, is my favorite depiction of the event. Painted by a black American in 1898, Henry Ossawa Tanner, this captures, I believe, the ordinariness of a young Mary who is faithful to God—no halos or any other indication of holiness. And the light that represents the angel Gabriel is masterful.

I also believe it is the best representation of what Lewis is communicating here. God, in humility, takes the form of man, and chooses a humble young woman to carry out the first stage of His plan of redemption. The final stage is resurrection from the dead and a shared life eternally with the One who laid down His life. Taken in its entirety, it certainly is “The Grand Miracle.”