There is an important word that sums up what Christmas is most fundamentally about, and it’s not “Santa,” “gifts,” or “eggnog.” It’s not even “peace” or “goodwill.” The word is “incarnation.” Christmas is the celebration of the truth that God has become incarnate, meaning that the eternal, immortal and invisible God has taken on flesh (a human body) and entered our world in the person of Jesus Christ. There are at least three reasons why this is a vital and fundamentally essential doctrine for the Christian faith:
1. The incarnation affirms the goodness of physical existence.
It is common to believe that physical matter is somehow inherently inferior to the spiritual world. This leads many Christians to devalue their bodies, to neglect the responsibilities and delights of earthly existence, and to conceive of heaven as a disembodied ghostly existence. The fact that a holy God was willing to unite with a physical body in the person of Jesus (1 John 4:2) affirms that God approves of physical matter and earthly existence. He came not to eradicate this world, but to redeem it and make it new (Col. 1:20).
2. The incarnation means that God was willing to get involved.
When things go wrong, there is generally no shortage of people willing to voice their criticisms and complaints, but very few actually step into the problem, get their hands dirty, and try to bring about a solution. The incarnation means that the God of the Bible is not an aloof deity barking orders from afar. Instead, he was willing to get involved (John 1:9). He got his hands dirty. He lowered himself, entered into the muck of this broken world, endured the pain and grief of walking on this earth, and accomplished full restoration and healing through Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead (Phil. 2:5-11).
3. The incarnation makes it possible for sins to be covered.
There is a passage in Lev. 17:11 that tells us that “it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” In order for our sins to be covered, blood must be shed. But if God is an invisible spirit, how can He shed blood? And if He can’t shed blood, how can atonement be made? The incarnation is the answer. “(Jesus) had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Indeed, Jesus was born to die . . . and to live again, that you and I might find life in Him.
Merry Incarnation Day to everyone!