The incarnation


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For years, I thought of Christmas as the celebration of Christ Jesus’ birthday, but perhaps I’ve matured a bit in my understanding.  Now, I try to think of Christmas not only as the celebration of the birth of Christ, but as the celebration of the Incarnation of God.


The word “Incarnation” is easy enough to define.  For our purposes, if you look it up in Merriam-Webster’s 2007 Dictionary and Thesaurus, the 2nd definition reads, “2 cap : the union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ.”  Well—yes, but that’s just a small part of it.  Understanding the Incarnation requires thought, contemplation, faith, and prayer, but thinking about it too deeply all at once can give you headaches. 

This is complicated more by the fact that God is infinite.  In fact, God is the only infinity.  He has no starting point, no ending point, no middle, He cannot be pinned down anywhere in time or space, but we do not need to agonize over this; we merely need to keep in mind, God is bigger than we are and is more than we will ever be able to understand.

So, then, what about Jesus?  Christians believe Jesus is God, but didn’t Jesus have a starting point?

Well, yes and no.  The Apostle John explained in the first chapter of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made.” 

This “beginning” was not God or Christ’s beginning, but our beginning.  The particulars on this can be found in the book of Genesis.  But Jesus (the “Word”) was here, the humans made a mess of things, but all the same, according to John, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

In other words, God became human.  I believe this happened when, according to the Gospel of Luke, the visiting angel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

This miraculous moment of supernatural conception was, I believe, when God became Incarnate.  When Jesus was an embryo, He was God.  When He was born, He was God.  When He took His first steps, when He lost His “baby” teeth, when the first hints of facial hair grew from His chin, Jesus was, and is, God—God and Man.

We may wonder why God the Father would want to become human.  The reason is stated simply in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Whether we like it or not, and regardless of what we think of Christmas, God loves us.  I hope you will think about it.  There will be more next week.

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Craig Hall
Publisher, writer, photographer and teacher.