Category Archives: Christmas

Why is the Incarnation Significant? – Part 3 – The Ultimate Revelation

The incarnation is significant because it is God’s ultimate self-revelation.  Consider for a moment all that we know of God that is reveled to us.  He uses what the theologians refer to as “general revelation” to tell us that He exists and that we are responsible to Him.  All throughout creation, the revelation of God is enough to hold men without excuse in the Day of Judgment.  But all this is not enough for us to know God.  There is still much missing.  Thankfully there is yet another facet of revelation provided to us.  The written Word of God forms a “specific revelation” given that we might know God.  But still there is something missing.

Here’s the problem.  With all that we know about God, no one has ever seen Him.  We have heard that Moses saw part of His glory, but no one has seen God (John 1:18).  How can you really know someone you haven’t seen, gone to a park with, watched their reaction as you tell stories to, and hugged?  There is something wholly different between a cyber relationship and the real thing.  This is something of the distance between God and His creation.  This distance has existed from the primeval period of our history, because mankind has  always wanted nothing to do with the one true God.  We’ve rebelled against Him and His holiness demands that He leave us to our will, but His mercy keeps finding ways to reveal Himself to us throughout history.  That’s where the two sorts of revelation that we just spoke of come from, but in the end God wasn’t happy just to speak to us in shadows.

The incarnation means that God spoke into our world with Himself.  The invisible God sent us His duplicate image (Colossians 1:15) so that we may see Him for Himself (John 14:8-9).  God all-glorious, mysterious, immortal, invisible, clothed in light, and high above every throne and dominion took upon Himself humanity.  As He sustained the molecules of the known universe, He was birthed into a cattle feeding trough in a smelly cave in a little town in the Middle East.

I am often fascinated by the Apostle John’s use of the term “Word” to refer to Jesus.  This was at one time a substantial source of confusion for me.  Why would you call a person a “Word”?  This makes very little sense to you and me, but it makes all the sense in the world to God.  Imagine with me that you had been trying to communicate with your girlfriend in another state.  You had emailed.  You’ve tried Facebook stalking her.  You’ve called and texted.  You’ve even had friends try to contact her locally, but to no avail.  You’ve tried every sort of message and now it’s time to do something extreme.  You hop a plane and travel across the country to see her.  You yourself are become the message.  So it is with the Incarnate Word.  Jesus is the message of God to a humanity that has ignored all of His prior messages.  But consider the content of the message.  It has often intrigued me that God’s message to man wasn’t one of hate and punishment.  We had rebelled against him, after all!  But quite to the contrary, God’s message to mankind was one of hope and peace through the work of Jesus Christ.

Every religion in the world is predicated upon the idea of man becoming a god, but the Christian teaching is that God became man that man could be reconciled with God.  God put Himself on the line so that he could suffer for the rebellion that we chose over Him.  As you celebrate this time of year I would encourage you to think of the fact that the incarnation of Jesus Christ was God shouting into the world with all His might.  God wants to be known.  God wants to reveal Himself to us and will go to the greatest lengths to do so.  Are you listening?

“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.”  (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Why is the Incarnation Significant? – Part 2 – The Ultimate Example

The idea of following in the steps of Jesus captures the attention of mystics, sages, skeptics, and scholars alike.  If you or I were to ask the average person on the street what they thought about Jesus Christ, certainly they would almost universally say that they believed Him to be a good man or a great moral teacher.  But the perspective of humanity cuts off the man Jesus at His knees.  For, you see, to call Jesus a “good man” falls ever so short of what He really was.  Imagine that you were to have a conversation with Bono or Lady Gaga or Yo-Yo Ma in which you told them that you felt that they were a “good musician.”  Failure to use the superlative when interacting with one who deserves a superlative is not a compliment, it is an insult.  When dealing with the Jewish carpenter, we ought not to carry on with this thought of His being a good man.  We ought to refer to Him as “the good man.”  The historical record does not allow us to do any different.

And it is to this end that the incarnation moves.  All through the ages leading up to the incarnation, the dictates of God were preserved in the Law.  The psalmists and the prophets ascribed great value to the Law as it was critical to their direction and living.  The Law taught man what God expected, but Jesus Christ showed men how to live what God expected in action and in motive.  For those who follow after Christ, no greater responsibility, no greater joy exists than to walk as our Lord walked (1 John 2:6).

But I tend to think that there is more to this walking in the steps of Jesus than we often would like to admit.  For proof I offer the testimony of the Apostle Peter.  Not long after Peter’s great confession, Jesus starts talking about dying and Peter tells Him off.  Jesus fires back at Peter “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).  Jesus is calling Peter to walk like Him, and by this He means that Peter and all of His other disciples must take up crosses.  Peter heard Jesus explain that in the kingdom of God, loss=gain, losing=finding, gaining=forfeiting, and a cross=glory.  What a bizarre thought!  Finally, towards the end of his life, the Apostle Peter speaks to the churches of Asia and elaborates on this idea.  Peter told the Christians who were about to suffer the worst persecution they had ever known that they were called to follow in Christ’s steps (1 Peter 2:21).  By this Peter meant far more than just going around and doing good things.  Peter meant that they ought to be ready to follow in the example of the suffering of Jesus Christ.  Peter goes on to expand on the point that Jesus made to him those years ago.  He lays out the following paradigm:

Christ suffered and was glorified (1:11).

Christ suffered and will be glorified (5:1).

When we suffer rightly, God is glorified (4:16).

We share in Christ’s sufferings, but will also in His glory (4:13; 5:10).

Only in the plan of God can trial (1:7), death (1:21), slander (2:12), or defamation (4:14) lead to glory.  But this is the path that Jesus walked (Philippians 2:5-8, 9-11) and it is the path that we are called to walk.  The incarnation introduces the good man from Whom our entire ethical paradigm ought to be shaped, but further, Jesus Christ, in the incarnation, gives us a pattern for suffering.  Without the incarnation we would have no example of how to live morally even in times of intense suffering.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Why Is the Incarnation Significant? – Part 1 – The Ultimate Fulfillment

The story of the incarnation is the story of God keeping His word to mankind.  All through the Old Testament we bump into stories of the prophets of God murmuring on about all these great and terrible things God was going to do.  Many of these prophecies were fulfilled, but many remained incomplete.  One, in particular, stood out.  The people of God knew this promise as the promise of the Messiah.  Literally, hundreds of direct prophecies as well as other shadows and allusions existed as to the nature of this man who would come to bring freedom to his people.

But the story of the fulfilled promises is no happy cartoon with a simple plot.  It was an epic drama with frustrating twists and turns.  God’s people faced down and eventually succumbed to numerous foreign invasions and natural phenomenon, which darkened their vision of the prophecies brought to them time and time again.  In the face of real life uncertainty, everyone had to be wondering whether or not they could be very certain about all of the promises that God had made them.  Theodicy (the challenge of God’s sovereignty in the midst of suffering), it seems, is the night that obscures the promises of God.  When things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, we tend to doubt God’s promises, but for all our doubting, God still keeps his promises.

This lesson lies at the heart of the incarnation.  We didn’t keep our promises, but God kept his.  We left off believing him because times were difficult, but he always was there and stayed true to his word.  When he spoke of one who would suffer for his people and would reign on the throne of David (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Lk. 1:31-33), he meant it and carried through with his promises.

As we approach this time of remembrance of the incarnation, you too may find yourself questioning the promises of God.  Is he really all that he claimed to be?  In the face of an economic meltdown, will he be there to support you and your family?  In the midst of an exploding marriage, will you ever have peace for your soul? In the weeks following the loss of a loved one, will you ever find healing for the hurt? In the valley of ongoing, addictive failure, will you ever find freedom? In the numbness of a repetitive and unenjoyable weekly schedule, will you ever find joy and contentment? These questions are nothing new.  The answer to the greatest frustrations of the soul can be found in the resounding “Yes” of the fulfilled prophecies.  If God was true to his word, even to the extent of taking upon himself humanity and suffering and dying for you and me, then surely he will care for me in the midst of the throes of a bad economy, a trying relationship, a lost loved one, a persistent addiction, or a boring existence.  This Christmas remember the fulfilled promises of God!