During the Christmas season, my mind naturally drifts toward the account of Christ’s birth in Luke 2, and the lines from Isaiah, Micah and Amos. The belief in the incarnation of Christ is at the very heart of the Christian faith, and without it, we would not have the death nor the resurrection to come. Although the early Christians did not necessarily have Jesus’ birth on the church calendar, the earliest of them held it to be a foundational doctrine, fully accepting Luke’s and Matthew’s incredible accounts.
What is the significance of God becoming human, complete with elbows, a pancreas, personality and first name? Yes, he would have to be born in order to die, but is that all? How might the Creator be working today through the man and personhood of Jesus, who is the Christ? Here are a few examples––certainly not an exhaustive list––of the import of Christ’s incarnation on earth.
He became a priest and mediator. As far back as we go in history the priesthood has always held a prominent place in religion. In pagan religions, as well as in the Jewish Law, the priest was a way for the people to approach their god(s). A priest was one of them and lived among them. He was necessarily human. He was the go-between to make amends for the people's wrongdoings.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. 2 Timothy 2:5-6a
Aaron wasn't good enough, so God shrank himself perfectly into the role.
He empathizes with our weaknesses and temptations.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
We know God understands because he has been there. He has been cheated, hungry, agitated and abandoned. He's on our side.
He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Matthew 5:17
As Christians, we revere the Word of God, but we must recognize that He is even bigger than his word. God can work multiple meanings into one prophetic word so that Christ brings out the truest, fullest meanings of all the prophecies. He is ultimately the one born of Virgin Birth, the Branch of David, the Prince of Peace, the one rejected by men. God is the author and driver of history.
He became a brother, so that we might, in turn, become members of God's family.
Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. Hebrews 2:11
Through Mary's brave, obedient faith, we adopted God as one of us and he became our brother. In so doing, God has adopted us all into his family. Once God accepts, he never rejects.
Above all, however, God stretched down from heaven and bridged heaven and earth. Just like the Joan Osborne song from the 90's said,
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin' to make his way home?
What if he were Immanuel, "God with us?" And he is.
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven, the son of Man. John 3:13
Here we are reminded of Jesus' baptism with the Spirit alighting on his shoulder, Elijah being whisked up to heaven in a fiery chariot, and Jacob's vision of angels ascending and descending on the ladder. Yet these were not enough. God, through the substantive flesh of Jesus, opens a spectacular trail to himself.
He lovingly draws us to Him. For it is not only power and perfection which elicit love–often they merely command respect–but it is fragility and vulnerability. Love comes to us first through a baby's cry, then through obedience, hunger, exhaustion, rejection, loneliness, a hand on a shoulder and death. And our hearts respond with gratitude. He cared enough to go fishing, clean our feet and pick bits of grain from his teeth, to be thirsty and to live within the confines of the world he had created, not trapped, but limited.
His fragility won our love. The incarnation drew us in where omnipotence and omniscience may not have led us. It's one thing to watch someone cry; it's quite another for that someone to be God.
What about you? What is the most meaningful aspect of Christ's humanity to you? What is your go-to verse in Scripture for advent?
April Bumgardner is a mom of three boys, two of whom she currently homeschools. Generally, it seems there are more than three but she has counted several times, and there really are just the three. She has been married to William since 1996. So far, it’s going fairly well.
April was raised in Phoenix, Arizona in a strong, Christian home. She received her B.A. in Russian from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, and her MPhil in Slavonic Studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Her favorite Bible verses tend to be about rest and the hope of heaven. When she was little, however, her favorite was Daniel 1:4 when Daniel and his friends were taught "the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans." Perhaps because this sounded so exciting, she has lived in Belgrade, Serbia; Vienna, Austria; Sendai, Japan and Glasgow, Scotland. None of the places acutally speak Chaldean, but she did learn to speak Serbian pretty well.
April loves drinking coffee, reading and sautéing garlic. She inconsistenly maintains a personal blog on parenting, educating through good books and on matters of faith.
She believes narratives and stories of all kinds offer the most profound avenue by which to learn and enjoy God's truths.
April and her family have been happily involved at North Central since 2012.