Why the Incarnation Matters Personally

The incarnation matters immensely for all creation.  Quite literally, the entire universe is held together in Him. Jesus is fully God-fully Man (Col 2:9) who somehow, in his full humanity, became fully “infant.” Matthew 1:21 records the Angel’s message to Mary where Gabriel says, “and you shall call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).” What a name! Immanuel. If you were to look at the Hebrew original, you’d learn the name literally is with us (immanu) God (el). As Jesus walked the face of the earth, there walked “God with us.” The one who made the stars, sun and moon took on flesh and lived under those stars, sun and moon which exist because he says so. A good example of this is Jesus’ calming of the seas (Mark 4). Nature obeyed Jesus’ word. Wow! So, why does this matter that he really became a human, becoming even a baby (this taking on new significance for me since we recently had our first child).

This matters for two particular (personal) reasons. First, Jesus knows our frailty. He knows our weakness. He was tempted in every way, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). In other words, he knows my weaknesses. I’m not arguing he entered into my weakness (i.e., that he sinned). Not at all. Rather, he never gave in. Why does this matter? C.S. Lewis made this point about sin and temptation. A man who cheats on his wife does not really know temptation to cheat because he caved. Rather, it’s the man who never cheated on his wife who had the same opportunities and proclivities to do so, but did not. This man knows what temptation towards adultery is. Well, that example helps say this. Jesus knows temptation far more than I because he felt temptations full weight and power, yet never gave in. And, strangely, this is a great encouragement. Jesus knows where I am when I fall. I do not follow one who has no concept of my struggles and pains. Rather, I follow God who not only knows (cognitively) my struggles, but literally walked a mile in my shoes. He knows me. Yes, he knows I fail. Yes, I grieve him. Yes, I loathe my sin (and, sometimes I loathe myself). But this is not because Jesus has told me to become self-loathing. This is because I encounter his holiness and am dumbfounded by his radiant glory.

The second reason why the incarnation matters personally is simply the fact that God became man. Ponder this. Why did God become man? Well, the traditional answer is “to save us from our sins.” And, this is quite true (John 3:16). Jesus also came to be our perfection, our holiness (2 Cor. 5:17). But, those two reasons are purpose orientated. They answer “to what end” did Jesus come. What about motivation? This is so important to me personally. I struggle with great anxiety and low self-esteem. I don’t really follow Christ as I ought. Yet, salvation is not based on my performance, but on His. Salvation is initiated by God. Why? Let me answer this question by turning to Scripture where God describes himself. Exodus 34:6-7 says, “And the LORD passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Did you see the LORD’s first chosen descriptors? Oh, how often I forget this. The Lord is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. How does he ultimately demonstrate all this? He becomes man, even being wrapped in swaddling clothes and put in a feeding trough in a stable. What? Andrew Peterson has a song called “Labor of Love.” In this song, there is a line that says, “The baby in her womb, was the maker of the moon, and the author of the faith that can make the mountains move.” The make of the moon, who dwelt in Mary’s womb, was God. He did this because of his compassion, grace, patience and unending love. I deserve none of this love, yet he loves me none the less. I’m unworthy. Well, he didn’t become a baby because I am worthy, but rather to make me worthy (thanks C.S. Lewis for that idea!). This should be a constant encouragement that I cannot make him love me more (or less!). His love for me in Jesus was present for an eternity before I took my first breath (which he granted and still grants). Praise God!

The incarnation matters because it teaches me at least two things. First, Jesus knows my struggles. He actually knows my struggles better than I because I keep giving in, never feeling their full weight (Lewis!). He sympathizes with us, though never condoning sin. As my pastor said this past week, Jesus “gets it.” Second, Jesus became a man to save sinners and to be their righteousness. Yes. Absolutely. And, he did so because he is incredibly compassionate, infinitely gracious, marvelously patient and loves with an unending faithful love.

When all is said and done. This is Christmas. This is what is (somehow..) so easy to forget in the midst all the gift giving, food eating and story-telling. Father, forgive my forgetfulness. Refocus my eyes to gaze upon Jesus. He not only knows my struggles, better than anyone else could understand. He loves me more than anyone else could love me. This is the greatest gift of all (John 3:16).

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