We often hear we should put “Christ” back in Christmas- as if he had actually left. Ignored, yes- but absent from Christmas? I don’t think so.
Before we insist that everyone else put Christ back into Christmas, perhaps we Christians should think a little more about that ourselves. What exactly are we celebrating at Christmas?
Of course, the birth of Jesus. But what does that mean?
Well, it means a lot of things, a lifetime worth of reflection really. Today let’s think about one thing, the Incarnation.
Incarnation is the word Christians use to describe God becoming human. Its one of several, shall we say, unusual beliefs Christians have. Followers of Jesus have thought about this, discussed this and argued about this for a very long time.
It’s part of our answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”. That’s the question isn’t it? Jesus even asks his disciples, Who do people say that I am?
The answer to that begins in the Gospels and continues through the New Testament.
The Gospel According to John tells us:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grand and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. John 1:1-18 selected verses
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians writes,
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
John Calvin pointed out that God comes to us in ways that we can understand.
Why does God do this? Why does God become human?
Some say God became human so God could understand what it means to be human. That never made sense to me, that there would be something God doesn’t already know. Sometimes people imply two kinds of knowing, God knows of course what is mens to be human, but never the less in Jesus, God knows now in a particular embodied way. (Christians often deny this) But this also perpetuates a dualism between physical and spiritual that has been most unhelpful.
Others make connections between the Incarnation and salvation. These are topics for another day.
For me it is helpful to think about the Incarnation as a choice that God makes. But why? Why would God choose this?
Love, I think. the God coming to us. God choosing to be God for us. The God who will not leave Israel nor us, no matter what. The God who is committed to us.
How is God to bridge the gap between us? Particularly since we are so often not interested or forgetful of the gap? How does God help us to see who God really is?
God becomes one of us. Someone we can look at, talk to, follow. The traditional answer to God’s call is, “Here I am”. In the Incarnation,God comes to us and says, “Here I am”. The answer flipped on its head.
What we had to do was to follow.
Of course the world didn’t and thus the crucifixion and God’s vindication of Jesus in the resurrection. But it all begins with the incarnation. The Word made flesh ( Message- moved into the neighborhood)
How much love is this? God setting aside power and glory to be with us, to be one of us.
There is much more to be said about the Incarnation. Volumes have been written, doctrines proclaimed. It is a mystery never fully defined or known. but it begins with love. Love that transcends time, space.Love that pours itself out. Love the crosses boundaries of divine/human.
If we want to put Christ back in Christmas, I suggest we begin with love.
I’d like to know, what do you think?
2 thoughts on “Incarnation”
Christians can start putting the Christ back into Christmas by reigning in our consumer culture so that very few of us take notice what stores are saying “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays.” I look forward to the day when I could answer “I don’t know, I didn’t buy any of my gifts.” to the question “What is Wal-Mart saying this year to its customers as a holiday greeting?” (Not that anyone has ever asked me that!)
I love your opening paragraph. The rest is good, too, but that made me smile.