The wonder and mystery of the incarnation

The Standard December 2, 2021

God Incarnate. How can these two words stand side-by-side? That the divine could fit in flesh is nothing short of mind-boggling. Yet, here we arrive at another December and likely will race through days where we occasionally think ho-hum about this miracle of miracles, perhaps placing our to-do list above sacred wonder.

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (1 John 1:9-14)

Who could have imagined the juxtaposition of the Creator of the Universe coming to earth in human form, not as a conquering hero, but as a babe in a manger- the Greatest becoming as the least? The humble nature of Jesus perplexed his religious contemporaries who were waiting for the Messiah.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 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 emptied himself, by 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. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Philippians 2: 3-11)

J.B. Phillips, English clergyman, Bible scholar and translator who lived in the 1900s encapsulates well the challenges we face this and each December. “By far the most important and significant event in the whole course of human history will be celebrated, with or without understanding, at the end of this season, Advent. The towering miracle of God’s visit to this planet on which we live will be glossed over, brushed aside or rendered impotent by over-familiarity. Even by the believer the full weight of the event is not always appreciated.” “…our familiarity with it [Christmas] may easily produce in us a kind of indifference. The true wonder and mystery may leave us unmoved; familiarity may easily blind us to the shining fact that lies at the heart of Christmastide. We are all aware of the commercialization of Christmas; we can hardly help being involved in the frantic business of buying and sending gifts and cards. We shall without a doubt enjoy the carols, the decorations, the feasting and jollification, the presents, the parties, the dancing and the general atmosphere of goodwill that almost magically permeates the days of Christmas. But we may not always see clearly that so much decoration and celebration has been heaped upon the festival that the historic fact upon which all the rejoicing is founded has been almost smothered out of existence. What we are in fact celebrating is the awe-inspiring humility of God, and no amount of familiarity with the trappings of Christmas should ever blind us to its quiet but explosive significance. For Christians believe that so great is God’s love and concern for humanity that he himself became a man. Amid the sparkle and the color and music of the day’s celebration we do well to remember that God’s insertion of himself into human history was achieved with an almost frightening quietness and humility.”  

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