Monday, December 31, 2007

What I Believe About the Incarnation

We just had Christmas. We all know that. In fact, I am enjoying the recovery time that is necessary after Advent and the Christmas holiday. One of the things that is so important after Christmas, and this works in conjunction with the new beginnings that January 1 invites, is a time of reflection. I spend a lot of time reflecting on the last year. Did I accomplish all that I planned? Did I do all that I could? What are my plans for the future?

But one of the reflection areas that often gets overlooked is theological reflection. We say things at Christmas time that we say we believe, but do we understand them? There is the virgin birth, the miracle star, angelic appearances and the most important one, the incarnation, Emmanuel.

Our English word, incarnation, comes from the same Greek root that gives us carnival, carnivore and chili con carne. It means flesh, or meat. When we affirm our faith in the incarnation of Christ, we are saying that we believe that God literally became a human. The implications of this are mind-boggling and not to be forgotten or taken for granted. God, who lives in splendor, chose, of his own volition, to forsake all that glory, and become human. Philippians 2.5-11 gives us a wonderful summary picture of what this meant for God.

This also has significance when we consider the life and ministry of Jesus while he was on earth. We believe that Jesus was completely human, having voluntarily relinquished his claims to the throne of God. But at the same time, he was still God. He had the option at any time to re-claim his rightful position as the Almighty. Thankfully for us, he never did. This thought helps us and confuses us as we consider that Jesus often prayed. If he is God, who does he pray to? If he knows what will happen, why does he pray?

Finally, we need to consider the incarnation as it pertains to the crucifixion of Jesus. The law of the Old Testament makes it clear that sin requires a perfect sacrifice. Being perfect, and being God, allowed Jesus to become that sacrifice. He was able to take all our sins on himself because he was (and is) the holy and perfect God of the universe.

Jesus is God. God is with us. Emmanuel.

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