By Tyler McKenzie
Incarnation, the Christmas paradox: majesty dressed in humility, God’s Son growing in Mary’s belly, the Prince born peasant, Creator created, higher than angels laid lower than cattle, Jesus’ extraordinarily ordinary arrival. Can you feel the tension? If not, try reading Hebrews 1 over a modern-day manger, preferably while in use.
“[God] has spoken to us by his Son,” Hebrews 1:2 says. The Son’s subsequent résumé shows he is a really big deal (v. 2b-9). Yet incarnation was the way he spoke? Couldn’t he have motioned for, I don’t know, a pillar of fire? a raging storm? at least a burning bush? Why the country twang of a Galilean carpenter?
Defining the Divine
Why would God speak like this? Why a manger then a life then a cross? I assume he had options—he’s God. So why not less dirty and bloody? Couldn’t he have just snapped or nodded or thought his will into existence? Why incarnation?
The answer is simple—that’s God. That’s how his very essence reacted. Chalk it up to reflex. Incarnation wasn’t a decision to become less God; it was a statement about what it meant to be God. The incarnated Son didn’t abandon divinity—he defined it. Incarnation humbly whispers, “God is love.” It is what eternal self-sacrificing love looks like: a manger, a human life, a cross.
A Personal God
A word that comes to mind here is personal. God revealed himself personally. Jesus defined love personally.
And isn’t true love always personal? You can’t love people from a distance or at arm’s length. You must be close enough to feel their pain before they’re close enough to feel your love.
“The radiance of God’s glory” and “exact representation of his being” drew close. He lived in the world I live, experienced the pains I experience, walked the paths I walk, and lived my story to change it. Ever had a prayer denied? He has too. Ever been abandoned? He has been too. Betrayed? Yes. Lonely? Absolutely. Insulted? Check. Poor? Yep. Lied to? At least once. In the clutches of death? He was too.
This Advent, what does it mean for you to worship this personal, incarnate God, and what does it mean for you to follow him?
Tyler McKenzie is the teaching pastor at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and blogger at CrossShapedStuff.com. He lives in Louisville with his wife, Lindsay.