December 1, Advent has begun, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, as they say. I am feeling especially happy and excited as I write this, albeit in November, but excited nonetheless. First of all, I’d like to point out that we have journaled 10 of God’s attributes thus far and have taken the entire month of November to practice gratitude for many of those attributes. In case you lost track, here’s what we have covered; our God is immutable, loving, sovereign, good, majestic, trustworthy, wise, pure, judge of all, and generous! Which brings me to our final attribute, God incarnate.
The word incarnation, according to Webster’s, is defined as:
“the act of incarnating, the state of being; a particular physical form or state…the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ; the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form.”
The incarnation was the act of our Holy God condescending to earth in human form in order to deal fully and finally with the sin that separated us from Him. Like most people I don’t really like the word condescend. We’ve all had someone speak to us in a condescending manner and it’s not pleasant. Although the word is defined in one sense as an air of superiority, it is also defined as “to waive the privileges of rank.” It comes from the Late Latin word condescendere, to descend. So when I look at it that way, God waived his privileges as the holy creator of the universe and came down to the earth he created in order to save us all from the enemy and from death. He gave up everything in order to serve us in a way that would ultimately save us.
There is so much to the Incarnation. Entire books have been written on the topic, but in this short introduction I wanted to share why its is important to have a foundational understanding of this particular attribute. Jesus had to inhabit a physical body for two reasons:
First, he had to become human in order to live a fully human yet sinless life on earth so that he could be the sinless sacrifice on the cross. If Jesus’ humanity had overshadowed his divinity he could not have taken our sin away on the cross. He had to be perfect when he died because we can’t be. People sometimes explain Jesus being able to die on the cross for us in a way that hints at him using his divinity in order to bear the gruesomeness of it all. That is completely untrue. When Jesus hung on the cross he was as human as you and me with only one distinction, he absolutely did not deserve to be there because he was sinless. He quite literally took my place, and yours too.
The second reason Jesus had to inhabit a physical body was so that he could know fully what it’s like to be us. There is nothing we will experience in this life that Jesus cannot identify with because he has felt it too. Pain, both physical and emotional, loneliness, grief, rejection, fatigue, hunger, temptation, that feeling like you just don’t belong here sometimes…he’s felt that too. “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that wold take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” Hebrews 2:17-18
But there’s one more reason I’d like to leave you with as we start this new plan. Jesus came to earth fully human to show us what God our Father is like. He came in a way that people could look directly at, touch, talk to, eat with, cry with, laugh with. If you grew up in the church, maybe like me, you had an impression of God the Father as the stern disciplinarian, maybe even angry, and definitely not very approachable. Jesus was the good guy, he came with all the warm fuzzy things we like about the Bible. Forgiveness, love, mercy, grace, healing, freedom…
The truth is, God is all of those things. He’s always been for you and it’s because he loves you so much that he condescended to this broken and sinful earth and became like you, because he wanted to save you. He’s never been angry at you, but he’s been plenty angry at sin, and that’s why the incarnation, that’s why the cross, you can’t have one without the other.
I have felt so much emotion writing this plan, to be honest, I have wanted to write a plan on the incarnation for a long time. I feel truly like this is the right time. Maybe it’s because the world just keeps getting darker and darker that the season of Advent feels so welcome. Not only a celebration, but a full realization of the Light invading the darkness is what we most need right now. And I am praying that you will be rocked by the significance of this act of God as you work through these verses.
This month we will journal on the Incarnation of God from December 1 to December 22. From December 23 to 31 we will journal through the Christmas story, which I pray will solidify the beauty and wonder of this magnificent attribute of our glorious God!