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Incarnation


In the traditional Christmas Day Gospel reading, John 1:1-18, we have those remarkable words about the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It’s about the One who is Light and Life and Love coming into our darkness and deadness and selfishness and bringing the hope of new life, new identity, new purpose, and a new future. The ones He came to did not receive Him, but to those who did receive Him, He gave the right to become children of God.


I have always had to pause and wonder about it all. Why did the eternal Son of God have to take on flesh? Why did God have to become man? It seems there are two sides to the answer. From God’s side, it was so that there might be justice: only man could pay man’s debts, atone for man’s sins.


From our side, though, it seems that our guilty consciences needed convincing. A divine declaration of pardon wasn’t enough. Too good to be true. And (if we’re honest), who’s gonna pay for all the mess anyway? God stating that He loved us wasn’t enough to convince us. But One like us, wrapped in bone and sinew, flesh and blood, we could evaluate and determine the genuineness of the words, “I love you,” or “I forgive you.” For this One to touch the untouchable, cleanse the defiled, heal the sick, open blind eyes and restore palsied limbs, give hope to the hopeless, and raise the dead – that looks like love. And then for that same One to see our debts, to see what justice required, and to say, “I got your back,” and for Him to mount the arms of a Roman cross to bleed out and die in our place – well, then, what kind of love is that?!


If we step toward the Word that took on flesh, we will find that He invites us into the work He began. He calls those who believe in Him children of God. But He also declares that they are His Body, His tangible incarnation on earth, now that He has ascended to glory. The mantle of demonstrating the love of God to the world rests on the Church, the people of God. So somehow, what the Church is and does in the world, needs to look a lot like who Jesus was and what He did in His life here. Our proclamation to the world must have skin on it….


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