It is possible that in the constant rush of this season that our worship comes directly out of duty and habit. Perhaps we forget the what and why that provides the foundation for our Christmas celebrations. That fundamental basis is the incarnation. It may even be true that we have never actually understood the importance of this theologically nuanced term. A word that signifies in Christian theology, “God in the flesh.”
First, we must know who Jesus is.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58). This statement has significant implications for our understanding of who Jesus Christ is. First, the statement implies that Jesus was in existence even before father Abraham. Secondly, the statement aligns Christ with God through the use of the phrase, “I am.” When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, there is no doubt they were reminded of the conversation between Moses and God where God revealed His covenant name, “I am that I am” (Gen. 3:13-16).
John opens his Gospel with a powerful affirmation of who Jesus is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). Jesus is not a part of creation but is in eternal existence with the Father and Holy Spirit. He is the eternal Son of God and has existed throughout eternity as the divine Word.
Second, we need to understand Jesus’ purpose in the incarnation.
The purpose of the incarnation, the reason the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14) is that the eternal Son came to save sinners. Matthew signifies this in the naming of Christ, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (1:21). Matthew continues into verse 23 by quoting Isaiah 7:14 and signifying the deity of Jesus by the name “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” The apostle Paul summarizes this succinctly for us, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15).
Thirdly, we should affirm the reality of the incarnation and worship Christ for being the only atonement for our sin.
In Jesus Christ, there were two complete natures wed into one person. Paul wrote of this in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” He also wrote 1 Timothy 3:16, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Again, John 1:14 stated that the “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” First John 4:2 makes this a prioty statement for believers, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God,” and 2 John 7 also states the reprecussions of those not in agreement, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
In the Person of Jesus Christ we find the God-man. Completly God and completely man. One-hundred percent deity and one-hundred percent humanity. Neither overriding the other but fully complementary of each other ensuring that Christ is the only complete atonement for the sins of humanity. By being fully human, Jesus is able to fully identify with humanity. As Paul wrote in Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” By being fully God, Jesus is able to defeat absorb the full punishment of sin and defeat death by death. Jesus is the only atonement through which we can find peace with God. As the song writer once penned, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing, but the blood of Jesus.”
We worship Christ, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).
Christ identifies with our problems through His humanity, but through His deity, He is the also the solution. As a final thought, Gregory Nazianzus (329 A.D. – 390 A.D.) reminds us of the reality that the God-man brings and the meaning of the incarnation.
He hungers – but He feeds thousands… He is wearied – but is the Rest of them that are weary… He is heavy with sleep, but walks lightly over the sea… He prays, but he hears prayer… He weeps, but He causes tears to cease… He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God. He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world… As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also… As a Lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word… He is wounded, but He heals every disease… He dies, but He gives life… If the one give you a starting point for your error, let the other put an end to it.