Drawn to the Incarnation
There is something about the beauty and mystery of Christmas that inspires me. The word incarnation captures so much of what Christmas means to me. For some Christians it seems they want to rush over the story of Christmas and move quickly on to Easter. And I certainly appreciate the importance of Easter to the gospel message, but I find myself drawn back to the wonder of Christmas and the incarnation. Jesus was so much more, though certainly not less, than a scapegoat for our sins.
(To be truly accurate, the term incarnation is better connected with the annunciation which is celebrated by many Christians on March 25. But in the church traditions I have experienced that holiday has never been celebrated, so I find Christmas to be the best time to reflect on the incarnation.)
The definition of Incarnation in the online merriam-webster dictionary is:
the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form (2) capitalized : the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ
Stop for a moment and try to grasp the concept of the Creator becoming part of His creation. God entering the world, not as a conquering hero, but literally as a fertilized egg. God entering this natural realm as an infant child totally dependent on a young mother for everything.
The idea is both so amazingly unexpected and yet so beautifully loving. God willing to fully experience His own creation in the most intimate of ways.
What does it mean for worship?
Incarnation draws me back to the mystery, love and intimacy of God. Here are just three of the ways God’s incarnation fills me with awe:
- Mystery. No matter how much we contemplate the incarnation we can never fully grasp it. Theologian wrestle with the concept. How can Jesus be fully God and fully man? What does it mean that He grew in wisdom and favor with God (Luke 2:52)? How can one fathom the Trinity? What does it mean for God to empty himself? What was it like to hold God as an infant? The incarnation reminds us that God is never fully within our mental grasp. The very act of God becoming one with us reminds us how incomprehensible He is.
- Love. What kind of Love leaves behind the perfection of heaven, let alone the perfection of spirit, to become human in the lowliest of circumstances? What kind of Love desires the good of His creation so much that He becomes one with them? What kind of Love wants to demonstrate Himself to His creation so much that He takes on their form so that they can fully experience and see Him? What kind of Love not only gives His life for His creation but even lives His life with His creation?
- Intimacy. God becoming man speaks to me of intimacy. God became one with His creation at the most intimate of level. He became one of them. He grew up with them. As a child He even obeyed them. He lived with them – ate and drank and walked and talked with them. The Old Testament speaks to this intimacy but can never fully display it. Many times we come away from the Old Testament with a distant image of God. But with Jesus we see God’s desire for intimacy on full display. God wants to know us at the deepest level.
There is so much more that could be said about the incarnation, but these three stood out in my mind as I wrote. I hope you take time this Christmas to contemplate the incarnation and wonder at our awesome God!
Question: What does the incarnation mean to you? What did I miss?
by Jerry Wyrick, President, Worship Arts Conservatory