This Christmas season will be filled with gift giving, good food, and precious time spent with family and friends. And while all of these things are wonderful and very important, we should keep central in our minds the purpose of this blessed time of year. 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 Word was made flesh and dwelt 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 by 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 need God to come to us. But what should never cease to amaze us is 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 God was willing to go in order to prove his deep love for his people. When God chose to condescend to us, he expressed his desire to know us in an intimate way.
We should, therefore, never believe the lie that God is distant, uninvolved, and impersonal. Christians can often live life practically as if God is out there, in space somewhere instead of immanently all around us and dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit. When trouble arises or we are tempted to sin, we often act as if God is not personally involved in our lives.
Also, our conception of God can 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 its 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. But a god like that can never identify with human pain and suffering. He remains in heaven living in complete comfort while his creation suffers.
Christianity teaches that God left the glory he had in eternity’s past and entered into human suffering. Jesus was born in unsanitary circumstances–to a poor family. As he grew up, he faced rejection, temptation, and perpetual homelessness. Finally, Jesus would end his earthly ministry 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 deal with 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 world filled with suffering, I am tempted to question God’s goodness. Sometimes I wonder why a good God allows suffering to exist. 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 wrath of God?
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, the Son took upon Himself the greatest suffering we could ever face–eternal hell in separation from the Father.
Jesus is our Quintessential Example
Finally, the coming of Jesus Christ provides for all mankind a living example of what perfect goodness is.Hebrews 1:1-3 says:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (ESV)
The Son, Jesus, who is the exact nature of God, is God’s word to all of mankind. He is the final revelation of Himself. Jesus is absolute moral perfection dwelling personally with mankind. Jesus never sinned while he was on earth. In the former days, God told us how we are to behave by sending prophets. In these last days, God showed us how we are to behave by sending his own Son. God’s nature is revealed through Christ and his acts. Therefore, if we want to see an example of moral perfection, we must open our Bibles and look to the life of Jesus.
Because Mankind is depraved, no person could ever provide a perfect example for moral behavior. If human beings are to actually see perfection lived out, we would need to look to something beyond ourselves. God Himself decided to provide a living example of what it means for people to be righteous by becoming a man Himself, thereby revealing his perfect holy standard in a very tangible way.
Through the incarnation of Christ, God’s commands are no longer just words on a scroll; we see them lived out perfectly through the life and teaching of Jesus. Only in Christian theism does the absolutely perfect God become a man and show men how to live. Obviously, the Son did not only come to earth to show us how to live, but he accomplishes this task while en route to secure salvation for his people.
Jesus loved God and man perfectly. Want to 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. Want to 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?