For Unto Us a Child is Born: Some Reflections on the Incarnation
This Christmas season will be filled with gift giving, good food, and precious time with family and friends. And while all of these things are wonderful and important, we should keep the purpose of this blessed time of year central in our minds. This is the perfect time for God’s people to spend a few moments reflecting on what it meant for the eternal Son of God to add to Himself a human nature and be born of a woman. Core to the Christian faith is the teaching that the Logos was made flesh and dwelled among his creation. The incarnation of the Second Person of the trinity has magnificent, practical encouragement for those who believe. Here are just a few truths that encourage me about this momentous event:
God with Us
The invisible, inexhaustible, uncontainable God who dwells in unapproachable light and transcends all creation decided, in His good pleasure, to draw near to us! This mind-boggling reality should be enough to foster within the heart of the believer an eternity’s worth of worship and adoration of our triune God. Humans left to themselves could never get to God. God must reveal Himself to us and condescend to our level if we are to know and understand him. Not only do natural human limitations make divine condescension necessary, since the fall of man, our sinful nature darkens our hearts and we remain morally depraved barring divine intervention.
We desperately needed God to come to us. And it should never cease to amaze us that our God-who is absolutely immense in all of His attributes–decided, through the incarnation, to enter time and space as a man and, thereby, voluntarily subject Himself to human limitations. This divine self-humiliation of the Son shows the extent to which God was willing to go in order to express His deep love for His people.
Moreover, God shows Himself to be personal. The deistic conception of God is proven false by the incarnation. God is intimately involved with His creation! We should, therefore, never believe the lie that God is distant, uninvolved, and impersonal. Christians can often live life functionally as if God is out in space somewhere instead of immanently around us and dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit.
Our conception of God can also make Him out to be a strict disciplinarian–distant, cold and only concerned to punish us when we do wrong. These common misunderstandings of the nature of God are refuted by the incarnation. God loved humanity enough to add human nature to Himself. He desires to be a living, acting, personal reality in our lives! We should be supremely comforted by the fact that, despite our rebellion, God is never distant! He chose, instead, to come to the earth in order to secure for himself a people to His praise and glory.
God Chose to Suffer
We serve a God who, unlike other theistic conceptions of God, joined humanity in solidarity under suffering. For instance, the Islamic conception of God says that Allah remains transcendent and never interacts personally with His creation. A god remaining in heaven and living in complete comfort while his creation suffers can never identify with human pain and suffering.
Christianity teaches that God left the glory he had in eternity’s past and entered into human suffering. Jesus was born in unsanitary circumstances and to a poor family. As he grew up, he faced rejection, temptation, and perpetual homelessness. And Jesus would end his earthly ministry by being killed in the worst way possible–death by crucifixion.
Through the incarnation, God chose to suffer with us. He chose to know what it means to face pain, hurt, and suffering. And because of this, the author of Hebrews declares that Jesus is able to relate to us and effectively carry out his role as our great high priest (Heb. 4:14-16). Whenever I look out into this suffering-filled world, I can be tempted to be angry with God. I sometimes wonder why a good God would allow terrible things to happen to innocent people.
But, when I think of the life of Jesus, I realize that through the incarnation, God left comfort, prestige, and glory, and chose to identify with human suffering. He didn’t just stay up in the sky and watch as humanity groaned in pain. God, through the person of Jesus, knows what it means to suffer. As a matter of fact, no person has suffered more than Jesus. On the cross, God poured out the wrath due all sinners onto Jesus.
Has anyone you know ever suffered by taking on the sins of the world? No one knows, or will ever know, what it means to suffer like that. As Christians, we may never know why God allows us to go through the suffering we go through. However, we can take comfort knowing that God has not allowed us to suffer without He Himself knowing what it feels like to suffer. Moreover, God took upon Himself the greatest suffering we could ever face–eternal hell in separation from Him.
Jesus is our Quintessential Example
The law of God told us what to do, but the Son of God showed us what to do. Jesus is our quintessential example of what it means to live the Christian life. Through the incarnation, God became a visible, perfect example of righteous and holy living. Christians would do well to study the life and words of Jesus. Jesus loved God and man perfectly. Wanna know how you should love and treat the poor? Look at the life of Jesus! Struggling to forgive someone? Look to how Jesus forgave his enemies! Wanna learn how to pray? Look to the devotional life of Jesus! Many of the common issues humans face daily are addressed and have been recorded for us in the life of Jesus. The incarnation gives us the perfect example for what it means to be human!
So brothers and sisters, take time this holiday season to reflect on this event, and share with someone some of the insight God has given to you! What are some truths about the incarnation that encourage you? Comment below!