Keeping Christmas Well: Focus on the Incarnation

Keeping Christmas Well: Focus on the Incarnation December 26, 2011

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Today is the second installment in a series of reflections called Keeping Christmas Well. If you missed my introduction to this series, you might want to check out yesterday’s reflection. In this series, I’m working on the question: What would it mean to keep Christmas well every day?

The prologue of John’s Gospel tells the essential story of Christmas, but not in the usual manner. John doesn’t give us angels and shepherds, or wise men and a star. We don’t even have a babe born in a stable and laid in a manger. Rather, John reveals the theological essence of Christmas.

And what is this theological core? It begins with the Word of God, the living Logos who was with God in creation. This eternal, divine Word “became human” (v. 14). That’s a valid rendering of the original Greek, which states literally that the Word (logos) became flesh (sarx). The Word of God didn’t just look like a human being. He didn’t just appear among us in some mysterious, other-worldly form. Rather, he became one of us, flesh and all.

Here is the wonder of the Incarnation, the in-flesh-ment of the divine Word. For centuries, theologians have sought to explain this mystery, but their efforts only take us so far. We’ll never fully comprehend how an infinite God could take on finite flesh, how an all-powerful God could become a weak, vulnerable baby.

Yet this truth is absolutely central, not only to Christmas, but also to Christian theology and Christian living. We must beware of the tendency to deny the full humanity of Jesus, even as we also boldly affirm his full deity. In fact, one of the oldest heresies claimed that Jesus was divine but not really human (see 2 John 7, for example). Though most of us wouldn’t agree with this theology, we may have never taken time to reflect upon the implications of the Incarnation for our faith and life as Christians. In the next few days, I want to explore some of these implications with you.

We will keep Christmas well when we focus on the fact of the Incarnation, something we can affirm without ever plumbing its depths. In Jesus, God became human. In Jesus, the all-powerful Word became weak and vulnerable. In Jesus, God reached out to us in a costly, humble, and fully incarnational way. The more we keep this truth in mind, the more we will be able to honor Christmas in all that we think and do.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What does the Incarnation of the Word of God mean to you? How are you going to celebrate the Incarnation today?

PRAYER: All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are the Almighty Word of God!
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are the Word made flesh. You are Emmanuel, God with us!

All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you, the all-powerful Word of creation, became weak and vulnerable.

All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you became human in order to be with us, so that you might reveal the Father to us, and so that you might save us.

All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, Word of God Incarnate, Savior of the world…and my Savior too! Amen.

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