Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham was a baseball player. He was also a doctor. He was immortalized in the classic American baseball film Field of Dreams. And he can illustrate the glorious mystery of Christ’s incarnation.
Moonlight Graham spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, even having a cup of coffee with the Memphis Egyptians in 1906. His claim to fame, however, was not what he did in the minor leagues. It’s what he didn’t do in the major leagues. After being called up to the New York Giants on May 23, 1905, Graham sat the bench until June 29 when he assumed right field in the bottom of the eighth inning. He was on deck in the top of the ninth inning preparing for his first major league at-bat. Claude Elliot flied out, however, ending the game. Moonlight finished the game in right field but never played another major league game. He was sent back to the minor leagues having never batted in the big leagues.
He earned his medical degree in 1905. After hanging up his spikes in 1908 he doctored Chisolm, Minnesota for the next fifty years.
That much is true.
In the fictional movie, a much-older “Doc” Graham was afforded the opportunity to realize his dream on Ray Kinsella’s magical Field of Dreams. Old and some long-dead players were transformed into their younger selves to play baseball. “Archie” (the younger version of Moonlight Graham) hit an RBI sacrifice fly against White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte. It was enough to make grown men cry.
Here is where an illustration of Christ’s incarnation comes in. Graham was suited up for another game when Ray Kinsella’s (played by Kevin Costner) daughter fell from the bleachers. She wasn’t breathing. As panic set in, Kinsella’s eyes met Graham’s who was in left field with the other players. There was no time to wait on a doctor and Archie Graham knew it. What he knew, however, that Kinsella didn’t was that if he crossed the baseline to help the girl he would never be able to return to the field. His baseball career would be cut short again.
In a pregnant moment, Archie Graham stepped off the field and immediately became old “Doc” Graham again. He saved the girl and went home to his wife who he joked might think he had a girlfriend.
Such is the pregnant moment of Christ’s incarnation.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2.5-11).
Jesus did not become man for thirty-three years and then return to his pre-incarnate eternal form (whatever that was). He became man and stayed man–the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8.29). He exists now as he always will: as the God-Man. Our older brother, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh. Christus Incarnatus.
When the eternal Christ crossed the threshold between heaven and earth he knew he was never going back to the way things were. He was baptized in our Jordan, immersed in our sin, tempted by the prince of our world, crucified by our hands, buried in our tomb and risen on our soil. To save God’s children he had to become like us, live like us, die like us (Heb 2.14-18). He humbled himself, laying aside his rightful privileges to breathe life into those who choked on sin and death. The only scars in heaven will be his.
No wonder the apostles loved the word “mystery.” Only God could condense Christ’s pre-world, pre-time glory into human form (Jn 17.5). The eternal second Person of the Trinity, fullness of deity in bodily form (Col 2.9), exact representation of God himself (Heb 1.3) forever compacted in a Man. A Man like us. A Man for us.
The fullness of glory wrapped in the fullness of humility. This is our God. This is our Christ. At the right time, indeed the fullness of time (Gal 4.4), he sacrificed so that we could come home.