I have often wondered at the incarnation, and sitting in the Sunday service of a local church the thought was brought home once again and renewed in me the wonderment of it all.
At this time of year, namely Christmas, we as Christians have taken on a foreign and very pagan celebration and adopted it as our own. It is ironic that God in the form and being of Christ, did the same with a life that is pagan and foreign to Himself, He adopted human form and became a man in mind, will and emotion as well as body and spirit. He was all God and yet entirely man simultaneously.
With Christmas being what it is, we have in fact taken a pagan festival along with Easter, and made it a celebration of Christ's coming into the world as a babe in a manger, but it is in fact something so much more than that. It is the incarnation of God in human form, He became us to redeem us.
God became man through partnering with a human being called Mary. She had Jesus as her son and Joseph adopted him into his family. Looking at biblical characters we often see them in a different light from the reality of the situation. Incarnation is partnership.
Mary was about 13 years old and as such, very young in our day but not for a Jew of her day to be having children. What's more, she had an "illegitimate" child, a bastard son in the world's eyes and she claims that it is God's son! She could no more claim that she knew what had happened to her or in her than we can when Christ comes to live in us at salvation. It is a mystery, but a reality.
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick
The Incarnation of Christ began in partnership with Mary and in fact God was birthed in and through Mary. It brings to mind Jesus words to Nichodemus,"You must be born again." Was Jesus talking about mankind being born again or Himself being born again in us, or both? I believe it is both. Jesus incarnation in Mary was brought to fruition in His birth, that is, He was born of God through Mary, as an expression of God in human form. The fulfilment of the law and the prophets was now walking unveiled and warm-blooded among His creation.
In the same way God is birthed in us as believers so that we become as He is in this world, by virtue of His indwelling. His eternal life is fulfilled and one with us as we have become partakers of His divine nature. We become Christ with skin on in this world. In fact, Christian means little Christ. Christianity has become Christ in humanity.
Jesus learnt perfection through suffering, He learnt what it was to be human, to be limited, to have the confines of time, energy, dependency on food and rest, and He learnt what it means to be the son of God. He knew what it was like to hunger, to cry, to tire, to feel pain, to suffer, to mourn, to feel alone, to be betrayed, to be ostracised, to be ignored, to lack and finally to die.
In all of this He was God incarnate, which means that He was wholly God, but wholly man. He was God in the sense that He was perfect, He was man in that He was weak and frail. He was God in that He had eternal life in His core being, He was man in that He would die. He was all that God was while still experiencing the dependencies and limitations of being a man. We all know this dichotomy well, it is a tension that Jesus must have felt and it is a tension that we have to live in.
It is in this place that we find, Jesus to be on par with us as believers. The reason being that Jesus was on our level. He was man with eternity as His core life. As believers we have Christ incarnate within us, His eternal life is in us as our salvation. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is in us. The same spirit that raised Lazarus from the dead is in us. The same spirit that was in the babe in the manger dwells in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure.
Jesus was God, we are not, but the life of God lives in us just as it was in Christ for we have been made partakers of Christ. Our life is hid with Christ in God. There is no divine life aside from that which is God, and yet we have the eternal nature of God alive and well in us. Christ in us the hope of Glory dwells in our spirit, with the Holy Spirit continually bringing transforming revelation of God to our mind, will and emotion.
He who has the son has life, He who does not have the son does not have life. Christ is incarnate in you and I today. Paul's message in His day was to confront the world with Christ in Him, the gospel he preached was that Christ in us fulfils and completes humanity in the same way that the spirit of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled and completed the law and the prophets.
As you celebrate the incarnate Christ this Christmas, I would encourage you to remember not only the babe in the manger, but also the life that you partake of in Christ. The joy of Christmas is that just as Mary's purpose was to carry eternity and bring it into the world for the salvation of man and the redemption of man's culture, so it is your purpose too.
Allow Christ in you to govern what measure of this pagan festival to redeem this year. The life of Christ in us is the word of God and sharper than any two edged sword, and He wants to be the incarnation of Christ through you to your family, your friends and your neighbours this Christmas. Also remember there is nothing sacred and nothing secular, for all that is sacred touches earth and all that is secular can be redeemed. After all Christmas has come to be a celebration of Christ in humanity - where Christ and culture collide! We hope you have a happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.