Christmas is upon us! Thanksgiving is over, the songs are on the radio, the wonderful smell of peppermint mocha floats in every Starbucks and people have been killing each other to get the perfect Christmas gifts! Amidst this is, the narrative of Christ’s birth. Many a Church-goer has sung the Christmas and advent hymnody without much thought. We sing about Jesus birth being a big deal, we thrust signs like “Keep Christ in Christmas” but I think we neglect to pause and truly reflect upon what this event really portrays. We lack the total understanding of what “Immanuel- God With Us” really means. This one reality literally throws the Christian faith into it’s own category as far as “religion is concerned” because we are the only faith that believes our God became like us. This has a drastic effect on the way we live, but we tend to neglect it’s full weight.
In order to really appreciate this season, and much more important the Christian faith in general we must explore and understand the total weight of the Incarnation of Christ. Incarnation literally means “In the flesh”. The birth of Christ literally declares that God the Son put on the clothes of human skin and lived here among us. Our world is broken. We are broken; our souls long for a restoration to a communion with God. Only the incarnation could make this possible. As we look at this Advent/Christmas season we must answer the questions: What is the incarnation and why is it important?
Like a neon sign on the vegas strip:
The Incarnation shouts to God’s pursuit of man
“There is no other religion offers a God who pursues humanity”. When God took on flesh, he chose to dwell with us in our humanity. All the trappings with which we find ourselves stuck in within our humanity, God himself endured. Jesus was ruling and reigning in Heaven. As the early portion of John 1 describes, everything came from Him and was for Him. He was living the literal “high life”, yet he saw our brokenness and heard the cry of the human soul to be reunited with him, fully restored to the way He originally intended it. He didn’t simply come as Adam, fully grown, but also chose to endure infancy, toddler life as well as adolescence. When it states: “He dwelt among us…” the Greek word is stating he took up residence. He didn’t just hang out, he made this his home; Jesus was all in. He was the Living God who purposefully chose to live with human limitations. He couldn’t feed himself for a time. He needed to rely on Mary to change his diaper. No god in any of the pantheons in history would be willing to do this. The gods you find in Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology were mean, selfish, cranky self-absorbed gods. They were a reflection of humanity…man made them in their image. Yet God was said to have designed us in His image. God sent Jesus to be human in order to redeem and restore yes but to also show us what we were meant to be when he originally designed us in His image. He took off his robe of beauty and power and put on skin, so he could be God with us.
In God’s pursuit of man, he desired to live and to suffer as humans do, in order to show his love, understanding and pursuit. Every other “gods” ambition was to force conformity by demanding perfect obedience. Christ’s ambition was to come alongside of man, declare he understands and show the way out of brokenness. Hebrews 4:15 declares this reality. There it states: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” His putting on flesh shows that he does understand our temptations, struggles, and our pains. Hugh Halter once said: “He came so that His divine life could actually take root in you and so that you could relate to Him like humans used to before sin” in other words, to restore us to himself! He desired that this putting on of flesh would ultimately bring us back to who we were always meant to be!
Jesus didn’t enter the earth at a time of ease or prosperity either. He was a Jew under the rule and reign of a tyrannical Roman empire. He stepped into a tense, uncomfortable time of history chose to be the underdog in the narrative. His birth was the only one controlled by the one being born and he purposefully chose one of the worst times to be a Jew. God didn’t choose the easy way for himself. He purposefully made it harder on himself when he came. His desire was to come among, dwell among, be with us and offer His life to bring us to redemption. This is the incarnation!
There’s a story I read a while ago about a man who finds himself in what is called “the valley of the blind”. He can see, but these kind and gentle folk don’t even know what see means because for 12 generations they’ve been blind. When he comes into the valley talking about sight, vision, eyes and seeing they mock him, despise him and say he’s an idiot. There are no such words, there is no such thing. Yet he can see and they are blind. A doctor comes to examine this seeing man and comes to realize that the protruding things he calls eyes are the cause for this mans insanity and in order to cure him the eyes must be cut off. These folks didn’t have eyes, they had sunken sockets, so they knew nothing of protruding eyes like the young man did. He was an odd ball to them, weird, insane and making no sense because they were blind. He was their hope to understanding the beauty of things seen, but many of them refused to even give him the opportunity to speak.
You see, Jesus is the seeing man among the blind community. To many, His seeing, eyes and the idea of sight sounds weird, dumb and idiotic. Many can’t interact with the message because to being blind for generations, the words don’t even exist in their vocabulary. In order to speak to the blind community, this young man needed to engage them on their level of understanding and slowly bring them to the understanding of sight and what it means to see. Jesus took on the same task, to incarnate himself within the community of the blind in order to get them to see. He did this willingly.
The incarnation is important because it symbolizes God’s pursuit of man, but it doesn’t end when Christ died! It’s also important because it is our blueprint on how to live the Christian life. We too are to incarnate Christ to this world.
We are the incarnation of Christ
This reality for us as a church is so vital to understand, because it re-sets our expectations of ourselves, of our lives, of our missions and let’s us see the macro-vision of God, rather than continuing in the micro-vision. Christian is more than a “religious” title, it is a formation of identity because we are saying when we claim to be “Christian” that we are a small replication of Jesus Himself. We are the incarnation of God to this dark world. We, by the indwelling Holy Spirit are the eyes to the blind. We purposely choose to take this on and it changes our lives in every way. It can’t just be something that’s practiced on Sunday and once and awhile everywhere else. It can’t be a minor reality, it is the whole reality. Will we fail? YES, but God gives grace in those moments. Yet, it redirects our very way of living because if we are in fact the incarnation of Christ, we are always on a mission field attempting to love the broken people around us, and being the incarnation of Christ to them! It could be your engineering students, it could be the nursing students, in the future it could be the nurses, doctors, teachers, tradesmen or whomever you work with and for. Once we see ourselves as always missionaries, we choose our words, actions and attitudes differently.
“The church exists to equip and mobilize Christ followers to embody Christ’s mission…Mission is the difference between having an emotion and actually doing something about it” (Saccone, 2012)
The reality is that we don’t have a choice but to be on mission if we are to adhere to and hold to the teachings of Jesus, he calls us to be incarnational and he sends us out to be Him to this world. When it comes to Jesus, historically the Church has gone from His birth to His death with little reflection on his life. This is a mistake, because his life was the thrust of the incarnation. His life is the blueprint of how we are to go about being the incarnation to the world today. The birth, death and resurrection of Christ are of cornerstone importance, but so is his life. In order to embody His mission, we must know what it looks like.
This means that Christmas is not just an exciting celebration of what happened, but is a current celebration of what is happening.
Our adoption was made possible by the incarnation
In Galatians 4:4-5 is says: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” I don’t desire to focus heavily upon the cross because I desire the focus to be more on his life today, but his coming in the flesh was also about what he would do on that cross on our behalf. We no longer needed to walk around homeless, we could find our home in the family of Christ, his incarnation made it possible for us to be adopted as sons and daughters of the living God!
We are a SENT People (John 20:21; Matthew 28:18-19)
David Bosch once said: “The classical doctrine on the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world”. We are sent into the world to incarnate Christ. The incarnation is important because we too are to be on the Mission of God to be the incarnation now. Let us, who’ve experienced the powerful understanding of the incarnation be sent to now incarnate Christ to this world. Live as He lived, love as He loved and come alongside those who are hurting and broken as He did with us on that Glorious day of His birth.
Who has God been laying on your heart? What is your major? What job do you hope to have? That is most likely who God is sending you to and right now? Who do you spend time with that needs the incarnation of Jesus? Have you been living as the incarnation of Christ?
We are a sent people. We are to be among those we are sent to and gently, lovingly share with them the amazing awesomeness of sight. We must be their Jesus experience, leading them to Him all the while. Describing Him, living as he would, talking as he would, loving as he would and showing them the healing for their blindness as he did for us!