Winter 2019-20

Why I Can’t Get Over the Incarnation of Christ—and Neither Should You

Christmas spirit is hit-or-miss for me. Some years, I become wrapped up (pun intended) in the nostalgia of familiar Christmas songs, belting them out while eagerly finding gifts for friends and family, and losing myself in a pile of shiny paper and bows.

Other years, I find it hard to get caught up in the season’s sentiments: I feel indifferent toward giving and receiving gifts, I become annoyed with the many store advertisements, or I have a “bah-humbug” attitude when no snow falls.

Over the past couple of years, however, I have become increasingly intrigued and awed by the concept of Emmanuel, God with us. The incarnation baffles me over and over again. I just can’t seem to digest the idea of the Almighty God becoming such a tiny, fragile being.

A Humble Gift

“God throws open the door of this world—and enters as a baby. … Because He wants unimaginable intimacy with you. … What God ever came so tender we could touch Him? So fragile that we could break Him? So vulnerable that His bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to death.
–Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

As I have spent more and more time working with infants, I recognize their vulnerability, dependence, and utter lack of ability to care for themselves. And quite honestly, the idea of our all-powerful, all-knowing God assuming such a position of weakness makes me uncomfortable. I mean, if I had that much power and knowledge, would I choose to give it up to show love to people who hated me?

Yet because God has so much power and knowledge, He knew that this was the way to bridge the gap between His infinity and the finite people, His creations, with whom He so desired to be united. Because of His divine wisdom and ability, He was able to step down from His throne and take on skin and bones and a circulatory system.

A Human Gift

Imagining Jesus as a human—a real, total, complete human self—is not something we believers do very often when we talk about Jesus coming to earth. We tend to marvel more at His deity than at His humanity, but think with me for a moment about the implications of Jesus being a man.

The Son of God had DNA, a brain, tears, snot, breakable bones, eyes, a nose, muscles, and hair. He had a family, friends, a home, and an occupation. He had to eat and sleep and drink and bathe, just like the rest of us. He wore clothes and shoes and traveled. He may have shaved, caught a cold, played games, told jokes, and done chores.

Did He ever lose His voice from talking so much to large crowds? Did He ever become tired from healing so many people? Did He climb trees as a kid? Did He have allergies? Did He annoy His siblings? Did He prank His disciples? We know He was without sin, but aside from that, it’s hard to say what is universal human experience and what aspects of our lives He couldn’t have encountered because they would go against His divine holiness.

Did He understand when He was a baby that He was the Son of God and would eventually die to free humanity from the weight of our sins? Could He feel the responsibility on His shoulders? Could He remember being in heaven with the angels? Or did He gain knowledge as the Father and the Spirit revealed it to Him throughout His life? Is it possible for God to limit His own omniscience without compromising His God-ness?

A Mysterious Gift

We can see from Scripture that Jesus experienced many human emotions. The shortest verse in the English Bible, John 11:35, famously says, “Jesus wept.” Matthew 21:12-13 depict Jesus angrily flipping tables in the temple. Luke 22:41-44 show the Lord so troubled about His coming death that His sweat is “like drops of blood.” While hanging on the cross, Jesus says, “I am thirsty.”

Many aspects of Jesus’ humanity, however, are left to the reader’s imagination. The incarnation is still a mystery. Perhaps we will ask Him some of our questions when we meet Him face-to-face: the God-Man who still bears the skin and the scars He received on our behalf.

A Breathtaking Gift

As we approach the celebration of Emmanuel’s appearance in our world, may we be breathless at the wonder of what happened that day. A young mother held the Sustainer of the universe in her arms. The very Word of God used the faint voice of a newborn.

Don’t lose sight of the miracle of God becoming human, concealing Himself in the small frame of a baby. And remember that He did this with you in mind—He made the move to become like you so that you could know Him personally: God with us.

It’s still a mystery to me
That the hands of God could be so small …

How His infant eyes have seen the dawn of time
How His ears have heard an angel’s symphony
But still Mary had to rock her Savior to sleep

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, servant King
Here with us

Joy Williams