Friday, December 3, 2010

Thoughts on the Incarnation

In a few weeks we will be celebrating Christmas. So much of this holiday is focused on lights and tinsel, gifts and family, parties and food. Sometimes we complain about all the hoopla and start to see these as bad things. But, in fact they are good things. This is a time to celebrate with joy, freedom and laughter. It's just that as we go about preparing for and participating in this season, we need to remember who and what this holiday is about. Towards this end, recently I've been thinking quite a bit about Jesus first coming.

The whole idea of the incarnation is mind blowing when you consider it: God, the creator of the universe, of everything that ever was, is or will be, became man. Infinite folded itself into the finite. Omnipotence limited to a frail human frame. Glory hidden in dust. The uncreated contained in the created. This is an earmark of historic Christianity: Jesus was not a man who became God, but rather He was God who became man. If we think we can comprehend how this happened, then we either have too low a view of God or too high a view of man whereupon this glorious, majestic miracle is reduced to just a nice event that may have occurred some time in the past.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she was to bear Jesus, she asked the honest question "how can this be?"[1] She knew how babies were made and knew the particular circumstances for that to happen had not occurred. She simply wondered from a natural perspective. Gabriel gave her an answer that seems to have satisfied her. But I wonder, did Gabriel have the same question from a spiritual perspective? Was he as satisfied by his own answer as she was? He'd stood before the throne in God's awesome presence. Did he wonder "how can God fit in man?"

The sixth chapter of Isaiah describes a vision of heaven. The Lord is seated on a throne, lofty and exalted. Seraphim fly around with covered faces, crying to one another saying "Holy, holy holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is filled with His glory." The doorposts of the temple shook and smoke filled the place at this declaration.[2] This same Lord walked the dusty Judean wilderness as an unremarkable man. He knew who He was. He had memory of creating those very hills.[3] He'd closed the door for Noah. He told Joshua to be strong and courageous. He walked with Abraham. He had spoken with Isaiah those few centuries prior.[4] However, those around Him saw Him as simply another man. There was nothing remarkable about Him that anyone would notice Him.[5] He blended into the crowd. Satan, knew there was something special about Him, but I wonder if he really understood Who He was. When he tempted Jesus, did he know he was trying to get God to worship him?[6] Or rather did he think he was simply trying to derail God's purpose in this man's life? Paul says if the rulers of this age had known who He was, they would not have crucified Him.[7] So, I wonder, was His glory hidden even in the spiritual realms?

Yes, Jesus was much more than a super hero type of being. That is much too low a view of who He was. That is something we could kind of get our minds around. If we think we can wrap our minds around who Jesus was in His entirety, then we have an image of God in our own image and not in His image. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite in its totality. We can have sufficient knowledge to understand what He want's us to know in our relationship with Him, but we cannot have exhaustive knowledge into all that He is. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.[8]

When I meditate on the incarnation, on God wrapping Himself in flesh, the only response I have is to thank Him for revealing Himself and praise Him for Who He is.

It was from the depths that You grabbed me
Called me and pulled me
Up from the miry clay

It was when I was undeserving
And rightfully earning
Eternal separation from You

It took the blood of One,
The Pure and Spotless Lamb
It took the blood of One
The Man from Heaven

As I see the height from which You reign
And the depth to which You came
As I see the height to which You brought me
And the depth from which You saved

I will praise You
I will love You will all my heart
And I will thank You
Forever and ever
-- I Will Praise You by Jusin Rizzo

Further reading:

1. Luke 2:26-38
2. Isaiah 6:1-4
3. Genesis 1; Proverbs 8:22-31; John 1:1-5; Colossians 1:16-17
4. Genesis 7:16; Joshua 1:6-7; Genesis 18:1-33; Isaiah 6:8-13
5. Isaiah 53:2
6. Matthew 4:1-11
7. 1st Corinthians 2:6-9
8. Isaiah 55:8-9

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