"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14)
Every year about this time I read an article or hear an interview where someone describes what they love most about Christmas. In America, there are a lot of things to love. Hearing Christmas carols everywhere you go, gathering with family and friends, smelling Christmas cookies in the oven (and the eating of those cookies), extended family shopping trips, last minute gift purchases, live nativity scenes, piling in the car to look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve, finding something you REALLY wanted under the tree on Christmas morning…
I’m sure you could make your own list. And it’s possible that we’ll find a few more things to love about Christmas this year – a new recipe, a new tradition, a new Christmas CD to play.
But more and more, I’m realizing that no matter how special or unique a Christmas might be, the most amazing thing about Christmas never changes, can never be improved, and never gets old. This Christmas will be special because we’re invited again to consider with wonder the miracle of the Word becoming flesh.
The theological term for this is the Incarnation. Wayne Grudem writes that the Incarnation "is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible – far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe." (Systematic Theology, p. 563). That’s what we’re invited to consider again each Christmas: "the most profound mystery in all the universe." Kind of puts a new perspective on finding the best deal on an X-box.
But why was it so important that the Son of God take on our humanity? The obvious answer (maybe not so obvious to some) is so that Jesus could endure God’s wrath against our sin. He came as our representative, the second Adam (Rom. 5:15-21), to pay the eternal debt we owed and to reconcile us to the Father. But there’s more. "Jesus’ human nature gave him (a) an ability to experience suffering and death; (b) an ability to understand by experience what we are experiencing; and (c) an ability to be our substitute sacrifice, which Jesus as God alone could not have done." (ibid., p. 563) Jesus HAD to become a man if we were ever going to be completely forgiven. "What if God was one of us?" Joan Osbourne once sang. We don’t have to wonder anymore. He was one of us – and still is.
This Christmas season, what are you most anticipating? What will touch your heart most deeply? Where will you look to experience joy? Christmas festivities and traditions will probably brighten our lives, but there will never be a better reason to rejoice than remembering that God became like us to redeem us. May every Christmas blessing we experience this year make us freshly aware of God’s mercy in sending His Son to be our Savior.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind;
Let me hear good tidings of great joy,
And hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
My conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
My eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
Place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
To look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
And in him account myself delivered from sin;
Let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
Embrace him with undying faith,
Exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him you have given me so much that heaven can give me no more.
(The Gift of Gifts, from The Valley of Vision)