“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin” (Gal 1:11).

Lady Gaga began her halftime show from a perch high above everyone else: Above the stadium, underneath a drone-filled night sky, she was dressed in what Variety called “an MTV exec’s idea of what Y2K was going to look like” — in other words, a glittery silver spacewoman outfit, face bedazzled with a silvery mask.

Everyone I spoke to beforehand was eager to see what Gaga would do but anxious about whether or not she would get political. In that sense, it was a lose-lose for her. The house is obviously divided, and it would collapse on her no matter what she did. Had she gone the Meryl Streep route, she would have been lost to the noise of yet another celebrity protest; by not going political, she’s taking wrath from the likes of the The Washington Post, who says she chickened out and that her performance was subpar. (Not so fast, there!) As a showwoman, who “lives for the applause” — not the best life motto, admittedly — Gaga, unable to please the crowd, was going down.

So what did she do? It would be incorrect to say she “descended” into the pit; she jumped. She dove and flipped her way down to earth, a spacewoman plummeting into what is undoubtedly a mess of a place, a place of both New Englanders and Atlantans, of Democrats and Republicans, where the branches of government are battering rams, and children are rising against their parents, and Pirates of the Caribbean just won’t quit. (Five movies, really? I can’t say I’m not excited.)

Gaga plunged into the madness, her downward movement mimicking the descent of God into the world. The big word for it is incarnation. It was a good move for Gaga because, like with God, it declares his/her agency, once and for all, over everyone else — not that we would come to him but that he would come to us. Fleming Rutledge describes the apocalyptic descent of Christ in The Crucifixion:

“We, the tyrannized inhabitants of a territory held by enemies (variously identified as Sin, Death, and the Devil), can only be liberated by a movement ‘from another quarter’ (Esther 4:14). The liberating force must be powerful enough, in the words of Jesus’ parable, to “[bind] the strong man” (Matt 12:29; Mark 3:27; cf. Luke 11;21). The incarnation itself was widely understood during most of the Christian era to be God’s invasion of Satan’s territory.”

Rutledge later goes on to explain that this vision of the victorious descending Christ must not be separated from the implication that we are the sinners. We are not mere victims being delivered; we are the very mess into which God is entering. We are the very sin that God becomes to deliver us from ourselves.

Which is where Gaga comes in: After her plunge, she resurfaced wearing football pads, looking more or less like she actually belonged, like she wanted to be there. She became a member of the team, only after squatting on her piano bench and singing a ballad of reconciliation: “I bow down to pray.”

Showy, to be sure. Not to mention glittery, spectacular, ridiculous, and over the top. Watching, a baffled friend said, “This is so excessive. Why do we do this every year?”

The Christian God is a God of gifts, a generous sower carelessly casting seed into a field, covering every type of soil. As Ethan writes in his recent essay, “In Praise of Excess,” in the latest issue of The Mockingbird, “Our accounts have been settled at God’s table, and…there is no such thing as a waste. We are free to feast, and free to spend–God’s bounty is everywhere.” And so, with glitter and drones and lights, Gaga sings, “Lord, show me the way,” and we know this song is not of human origin. (Contrast this with last year’s show, in which Coldplay concluded with “Up and Up,” an optimistic song which insists on human potential: “We’re gonna get it together” — Gaga looked upward, singing, “Lord, show me the way.”)

It wasn’t without backlash, which unfailingly accompanies all gestures of reconciliation. (Is it a coincidence that the last we saw of Gaga, she dove off stage? Is she ok??) Any healing act will be seen as an offense by someone.

If I know anything about Gaga, and I do, it’s that every performance overflows with references, both subtle and not-so-subtle. She creates “reference boards” dictating each outfit of each show, all of them an ode to something greater than herself alone. I can’t say for sure whether the theological significance of her actions were lost on her, but they weren’t on me.