“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” -Matthew 1:18
Does the incarnation inform and teach us about the mystery of Jesus Christ being both God and man?
Does the incarnation give us an example of how we are to live as followers of Jesus Christ?
I think the answer to both questions is yes.
The gospel makes absolutely no sense if Jesus was not both God and man. The incarnation is a core doctrine of the Christian faith. Hebrews 9:11-14 makes it clear that our sins are atoned for because of the shed “blood of Christ”. The shedding of blood requires humanity. But this blood has the power to atone for all sins for all time precisely because Jesus was God. The incarnation informs and teaches us about the nature of Jesus and how he needed to be both God and man for his sacrificial work on the cross to be redemptively effective.
The incarnation also gives us some clues about how the body of Jesus Christ (the church) should conduct itself in the world today. Paul says in Philippians 2:4-8, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Paul is telling us to look at the birth of Jesus Christ and use it as an example of how we are to live.
Paul is not saying that we can “do incarnation.” Only Jesus Christ, as God-man, can do incarnation. Although we as mere humans can not duplicate the incarnation we can and should emulate the humility that Jesus demonstrated through his birth (God becoming a baby, scandalous marriage, poor, running from the law, etc…).
A few questions to consider this Christmas season…
Jesus came to earth as a weak, vulnerable baby. He came to serve others and die so that others may live. How should this impact the way that you approach everyday life?
Jesus boldly went into the broken, sinful, and dangerous world that He created. Jesus was not obsessed with personal comfort and safety. How should this challenge the love affair many American Christians have with safety and comfort?
Have you ever communicated the story of Christmas as an exciting rescue mission that Jesus went on to save all those who are lost in their sins? How might this change the way our kids think about Christmas?
How does the incarnation challenge the the tendency that the American church has to sit back and wait for people to show up on Sunday morning?
How might the truths of the incarnation of Jesus Christ lead you into a deep sense of gratitude and worship this Christmas season?