Monday, December 24, 2007

The Incarnation: A Christ-Centered Christmas

Colossians 2:9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

As Christmas speedily approaches, it is urgent to find the means to sustain a Christ-centered approach to the holidays—especially in the midst of chaos. As studies have shown previously and life experiences attest, the Christmas season can be one of the most stressful times of the year: shopping for family, friends and extended relatives; attending Christmas-related parties and social function; sending cards to everyone on your list; traveling to spend time with family; putting up Christmas decorations—one can be extremely busy, surrounded by people, yet feel depressed and alone. This list goes on, but the notion is well taken—it is too easy to neglect the worship of Christ during the holiday season that heralds his birth. How can we ensure that we do have a Christ-centered holiday season that truly honors Christ? What steps must we take to ensure that we don’t allow this time to bypass us as we run to and fro to accommodate cultural expectations of what Christmas should be?

I want to propose that ruminating upon the doctrine of the Incarnation might just be the necessary means to truly celebrate and honor the Incarnate Christ during a holy-day that is supposedly dedicated to the birth of Christ. Let us begin this study by examining the following verse:

Matthew 1:16and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Note that the writer of Matthew was writing his gospel specifically to a Jewish audience as evident by his meticulous detail in the genealogy of ensuring that the reader understood Jesus came from the lineage of David and Abraham. Verse 1 of Matthew 1 reads, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” This messianic thread would be of keen interest to the Jewish reader. From Abraham to Jacob the father of Joseph, the Scriptures mention 39 fathers—yet it does not record Joseph as the father of Jesus. It explicitly records Joseph as “husband of Mary” (denoting a lawful union)—furthermore, it reads of Mary, “of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Jesus is recorded in Scripture as being born of a woman—affirmed by the wording, “of whom” which in the original Greek text is in the feminine gender. The implication in this seemingly insignificant detail is astounding—Jesus was born of a woman whose seed was not the progenitor of a human father.

Luke 1:35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

This was the response of the angel to Mary, a virgin. It would not be the seed of man that would conceive the God-child, but it would be by divine origins—the Holy Spirit. This New Testament passage is the direct fulfillment of several well known Old Testament prophecies, most notably the following:

Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

The word offspring is also the Hebrew word used for seed. In other words, the seed of woman would bring forth the means of crushing the serpent’s head. Now obviously biologically speaking, the woman has no seed; for this comes from the man (the sperm)—hence it again points to the Incarnation as the Holy Spirit is the source of the seed.

Another verse that predicated the virgin birth is Isaiah 7:14—Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6-7For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.


The term incarnation is derived from a Latin word, incarnre, which means “to make flesh.” The implications of this doctrine states that Christ Jesus in whom “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19)—thus Christ Jesus in being fully God, was also fully human. Again this was delineated in the passages above as Scriptures clearly demonstrate that the seed of man was not the progenitor of the God-man, but it was the Holy Spirit. Being born of a woman by the Holy Spirit ensures that Christ Jesus would have a human nature (note I didn’t say sin nature) without relinquishing or forfeiting his deity. Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God. Indeed it is as Paul asserts, “the mystery of godliness” is in full display in the man Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:16)

The incarnation stands as a declaration of the fervent and holy love of a Triune God that is remarkable and worthy of our consideration. The Incarnation was intended to be a means of dispensing grace to fallen man through the Lord Jesus Christ; a conduit of divine love expressed through the Father’s heart; and the securing of eternal salvation through the Cross. The crux of the Incarnation is found in the Cross. A Son was born to die—this is the Christmas message. There is no atonement apart from the Incarnation—likewise, the Incarnation isn’t complete apart from the atonement. James Denney, author of The Death of Christ (1902) writes, “the New Testament knows nothing of an incarnation which can be defined apart from its relation to atonement…Not Bethlehem, but Calvary, is the focus of revelation, and any construction of Christianity which ignores or denies this distorts Christianity by putting it out of focus.”

A Son was born of a virgin woman in relative obscurity—would die on a Cross so that you may find life eternal by faith in Him. The Incarnation made possible the atonement whilst the atonement allowed the Incarnation to find its overarching purpose. In closing, I want to leave you with the words of Charles Wesley that speaks of the grandeur of the Incarnation: “Our God contracted to a span; Incomprehensibly made man.” May the Lord himself bring fresh revelation this Christmas as you behold the glory of the Incarnate Son, "Incomprehensibly made man!"

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