The Incarnation Is Not Just for Christmas
We all say it every year. Where did this year go? Before we know it, the year has slid past, the temperatures have dropped, and the shops swell with Christmas sights, sounds, and shoppers. In church, we are busy preparing for the nativity play and dusting off the carols for their annual airing. We will hear the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, a briefer reading from Isaiah’s Immanuel section, or Micah chapter 5, and soon Christmas will be all over.
But the Incarnation is not just for Christmas.
The Incarnation is critical to the Christian faith. At some point during these weeks, someone will point out that Easter is the reason for the season. They are not wrong. Jesus had to be born to live the perfect life and then die in our place. But that is not the whole story. The Son of God became one of us for several reasons, including God’s great rescue mission.
Here are three more reasons that the Incarnation is not just for Christmas:
When Jesus became one of us at Bethlehem (or technically, at conception), his mission was to rescue and also to reveal. He came to show us the Father. That does not just mean that Jesus’ morality revealed God’s standards, nor that Jesus’ character reflected the Father’s values. In the Incarnation, we get to see what God is really like. We see in Jesus that the God of the Bible is genuinely humble, profoundly self-giving, sacrificially loving, and relationally inclined towards those he loves. The God of the Bible will do whatever it takes to pursue and woo hearts bent away from him in resolute rebellion. Our God is an Incarnating God, a God who moves towards us when we don’t deserve it, and a God who dives into our mess to lift us out. Yes, Christmas announces that Jesus was on a rescue mission, but it was also a revelation mission.
When Jesus became one of us at Bethlehem, he did not have tunnel vision for Golgotha. Of course, that was the intended destination. Still, he did not simply come and bide his time until that mission became possible. He truly became one of us. He was not born in a palace but in the humble surroundings of the poorest of the people. He loved, he cared, he laughed, he cried. We are told in Hebrews 4 that he was tested in every way, just as we are, yet without sin. Remember that for us, temptation only needs to rise to the level of our compromise. Still, since he never compromised, it must have grown to full force for him. Yet he remained without sin. He can sympathise with our weaknesses because he did not choose to hide in a palace until his Golgotha mission. Jesus came right into the heart of human life, struggle, and pain. He genuinely became one of us, identifying to the full so that now we have a high priest who can fully sympathise and represent us forever before the heavenly throne.
When Jesus became one of us at Bethlehem, he was not on a thirty-three-year excursion into humanity. He did not pop into our world, only to later shift into celestial reverse gear and head back out to the throne, leaving his human-ness behind. Jesus is perfectly God, perfectly man, perfectly one. And he is the God-man, forever. So the Incarnation was not a temporary status. Today there is a human at God’s side. This means that he can forever reveal the Father to us. Also, it means that he can forever represent us to the Father. And this means that his rescue mission was not just to bring us to a better place. It was to bring us much deeper into the wonder of God’s love than that—he became one of us so that he could truly become one with us. The great union of the Trinity has moved deliberately into humanity through the great union of divinity and humankind in the person of Jesus. And that wonderful Incarnation union was necessary to forgive us for our sins and make our forever union with Christ possible. The whole of Christian theology consists, as Jonathan Edwards taught, of three glorious unions: God with God (the Trinity), God with humanity (the Incarnation), and redeemed humanity with God (our union with Christ).
The Incarnation is for the whole Christian life, not just for Christmas. The Incarnation impacts our lives every single day of the year. God the Son became human so that we can know God in a way we never could before, be represented before the Father better than we could have ever imagined possible, and be brought right into the very heart of the Trinitarian relationship through marriage. For God the Son, the Incarnation was not just for Christmas or even just for thirty-three years and a rescue mission; it was forever and amazingly, it was for us.
As we head towards another Christmas, let’s be sure to ponder the wonder of that first Christmas and the daily wonder of a God who moved toward us in such a stunning way!
For more on the Incarnation by Peter, see Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation