Reflections on the Incarnation: A 2011 Christmas Message

As we draw to an end of this year, I want us to reflect on the incarnation of our Lord and it’s implications for our life. The act of God becoming man and identifying with his creation is the greatest event in the history of our world. St Athanasius, the 4th century bishop of Alexandria and defender of Nicene orthodoxy, said this in his pivotal work On the Incarnation, “For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father. For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world” (On the Incarnation, 2.7-8). Athanasius understood that God becoming man had major implications for our lives. First and foremost was our redemption. Only God can redeem sinful man, therefore, Jesus as God in the flesh through his propitiation is the only one able to fully redeem man. Jesus must be more than a man, because a man cannot redeem another man, only God can perform such venture. Second, the incarnation means we can know God. He is not distant, but intimately identifies with his creation. The writer of Hebrews says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). Athanasius again says, “The Savior of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half way. He became Himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body” (3.15).

The final implication of the incarnation I wish to highlight is our worship. We are now compelled to worship God together for the wonderful gift of his Son in order that we may be redeemed. Once again Athanasius says, “Worship, then, the Savior “Who is above all” and mighty, even God the Word, and condemn those who are being defeated and made to disappear by Him. When the sun has come, darkness prevails no longer; any of it that may be left anywhere is driven away” (8.55). We should not forsake intimate fellowship with one another and regular worship in the body so that we may continually feed on the spiritual nourishment provided by our Lord for our growth and his glory. Our communion should always properly reflect the glories of the incarnation, both in Christ’s humanity and deity. We should never devalue one for the sake of the other and vice versa. Because Christ came and brought with him grace, forgiveness and love, these are the things are to share with one another. Let us continually confess our sins to one another and enjoy the intimate fellowship at the Lord’s table and the proclamation of his gospel.

The incarnation, once again, is the most substantial act to ever occur in the history of mankind. May we never tire of dwelling upon it’s profundity and implications for our lives and those whom have yet to come to faith. May we praise our God for his grace and truth. And may we commit to continue abiding in the body of Christ through intimate fellowship and worship, especially around the table of our Lord with his bread and his cup. May we eagerly await the return of our Lord and the hope of resurrection. As our brother Athanasius said, “Now, therefore, when we die we no longer do so as men condemned to death, but as those who are even now in process of rising we await the general resurrection of all, “which in its own times He shall show,” even God Who wrought it and bestowed it on us” (2.10). May you have peace and joy this holiday season as you ponder the sweet grace of our God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

To download a PDF copy of St. Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, click here.

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