The Incarnation is a miracle that demands our awe but we often fail to grasp the wonder of the embodiment of deity in the person of Jesus Christ. Christmas comes and goes and we are left dissatisfied and exhausted, or at the very least feeling a failure for our inability to keep up with the demands of the season, probably half of which have little to do with our spiritual lives. And I think there’s a few reasons why.
Firstly, the Christmas story is a prop in our lives, a trinket on our mantle. We have not let it change us nor have we really pondered the implications of a God that takes on flesh. Secondly, we have surrendered instead to the excessive materialism that surrounds this time of year, thinking that somehow we can buy our joy and peace of mind. Third, we are so far removed from the context of Jesus’ birth and the anticipation of the Messiah that we don’t understand what all the fuss was about. We are not a first century Jewish person. We are 2,000 years on the other side of the resurrection.
Of course, we might have just had a really hard year (looking at you 2020).
But Christ’s birth was a turning point in salvation history. It was the point at which God “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). All that had been foretold and promised in the Old Testament was coming true. But why did God take on human form? What is the point of his humanity? And why should we care?
God is the one who reveals himself
Throughout the Old Testament scriptures, it is God who reveals himself to man, and it is always in a way that man can understand. He speaks and the universe orders itself around his words, and we know from John 1 that it is Jesus himself (rather than God the Father or the Holy Spirit) who best communicates God’s character, his grace, and his truth to us. Not only that, but the “world was made through him” (John 1:10), and at the proper time, the “Word became flesh” (John 1:14) in order to shine light into the dark of that historical moment in time, and forever after.
Although man was made in his image, they had forgotten what God looked like. The Incarnation is the image of God in man renewed. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and perfectly mirrors what would otherwise remain hidden (John 1:18).
Jesus’ divinity is displayed in his humanity
Jesus is fully human and fully God, and we see both his deity and his humanity in the gospels. But it was because he was human that his deity was all the more apparent. No human could do the works that he did. The people marveled at him because they had never seen anyone like him. He healed the sick, raised the dead, kicked out demons. He ushered in the beginning of the kingdom of God, something that only The King has the power to do.
But because it was sin and death that Jesus came to conquer, and God cannot die, he had to encase himself (but never contain) in what could die. Jesus had to be man in order to defeat death over man.
Athanasius writes, “The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed from a virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it.” Though he was mortal and died, he did not stay dead. His body never suffered corruption, and so we too have the hope of an incorruptible resurrection body.
Just as he is the better Adam, he is also the better Eve
Both men and women point the way to Christ in the Old Testament, and Eve specifically signifies the Incarnation of Christ in her person, not only her progeny. Adam says of her when he sees her, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23), and so Jesus takes on flesh and bone in physical form (though not from Adam). He is also the better “help-meet”, who triumphs over the temptation of the serpent in the wilderness where Eve failed.
But he is like Eve in another way. Just as Adam had no one fit for him among the animals, so humans are uniquely suited for other humans. It was why Eve was sent, and it’s also how God has chosen to bridge the gap between God and man, by becoming like us, not in our sin and rebellion, but in our original design. Just as God graciously provided for Adam’s need in the person of Eve, so God provides the solution to the problem of sin and death in the person of Jesus Christ.
His birth is “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Ponder the Incarnation. Marvel at it. Christ has come, and will return as the Incarnate Lord. He is our faithful high priest, whose triumph over sin and death will ever be marked on his human hands, scarred where nail was driven into wood and flesh, all for our eternal joy and gladness.