Every year that goes by I sense a growing inner desire to slow down, to contemplate over the Scriptures, and to reflect on God’s sustaining presence in my life in a greater degree than I have in the past. There is an ache in my soul for nearness to God (Heb. 7:19), for walking deeply in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), for enjoying the presence of God (Eph. 3:12), and for living a life that authentically overflows with joy and gladness in Christ (Rom. 15:13). Advent is one of those precious annual rhythms in the life of a Christ-follower that compels us to take stock of our faith and to truly marvel at the wonder of the incarnation once again.
As a Pastor I always find myself worrying for my flock that we will make a great mistake at Advent. The great mistake is allowing the sentimentality of the season, the colored lights of the buildings, the Santa Clause themed commercials, and the rewatching of nostalgic Christmas movies, to deceive us into thinking we have done actual spiritual work. It is all too possible to navigate Advent, and celebrate Christmas morning with friends and family, and when it is all over to be more disconnected from what Christ is doing in our life than before Advent began.
My plea for God’s Church this Advent is that we would not permit the deceptive sentimentality of our cultures secularized Christmas spirit to rob us of the opportunity to marvel at the reality of the incarnation. And my prayer for the Church I pastor is that each member would take ample time every day to prayerfully and expectantly immerse themselves in the Scriptures in order to allow the precious power of God’s Word to well up inside of them like a river of living water (John 7:38).
At the heart of Christmas is the incarnation. It is upon this historic reality that the Christian is invited to reflect upon during Advent. God with us, Emmanuel. The Word made flesh. The second person of the Trinity, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, entering into the human experience as a child growing in the womb of young Mary. The Gospel writer John describes the incarnation this way, ”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:1-4, 14
This is not religious folklore, rather it is a proclamation intended to be read as historic fact. At the center of human history lies an infant, “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2).” At the center of human history lies an infant who was born the legitimate King of Kings (Revelation 19:16). At the center of human history is an infant who did not have developed muscle to lift his head from his mother’s arms, yet was the one, “through whom all things were made (Hebrews 1:2)” and who, “upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).” At the center of human history is an infant whom over seven centuries prior, the prophet Isaiah had stood and bowed in reverence before His pre-incarnate throne (John 10:41).
But why—for what purpose was this magnificent incarnation? What a powerful point of reflection this question holds. We must understand the heart of God and the mission of God if we are to understand God at all. The Apostle John writes, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).” John says elsewhere, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (John 5:23)” The Gospel writer Luke says, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me (Luke 10:16).” Mark writes, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me (Mark 9:37).” Jesus was sent by the Father.
The Son was sent by the Father to do the will of the Father. It was the Father’s will that this infant would be born to a virgin. It was the Father’s will for a national census to force Mary and Joseph to enter Bethlehem in order to fulfill prophecy. It was the Father’s will that lowly shepherds would be among the first to learn of the birth of the long awaited messiah. It was the Father’s will to raise a star in order lead three magi from the East to worship at the feet of Christ. It was the Father’s will that this infant would be hunted by Herod and escape to Egypt. It was the father’s will to permit the arrest of Christ in the Garden of Gesthemane. It was the Father’s will to permit crucifixion to be the form of the death His Son would endure. It was the Father’s will for two criminals to be crucified beside him. It was the Father’s will for his blood to be shed for the healing of His flock. And it was the Father’s will to raise Him from the dead.
Church—discover your great joy by rediscovering a wonder and an awe at the reality of the incarnation. Your life and your circumstances are shaped by this reality; They find their grounding in the reality of Emmanuel (God-with-us), sent by the Father. The Father sent the Son to perfectly obey the law (a life you and I could never have lived) and to perfectly satisfy the wrath of God towards many on account of our sins (a death you and I could never have died). The Father sent the Son on a mission to redeem you—Christian. The Father sent the Son out of love for you—Christian. The infant Christ proclaims God’s love for sinners like us. Oh yes! I will enjoy and relish and wonder and meditate on and discuss and pray over the miracle of the incarnation.
Don’t miss the opportunity before you to allow the Lord to form something deep in you.
But sing, sing, O universe, until you have exhausted yourself, yet you can not chant an anthem so sweet as the song of Incarnation! Though Creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle—Incarnation! There is more melody in Jesus in the manger than in the whole sublime oratorio of the Creation. There is more grandeur in the song that heralds the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem than there is in worlds on worlds rolling in silent grandeur around the throne of the Most High.
Pause, reader, for a minute, and consider this great truth. See how every one of the Divine attributes is here magnified. Lo, what wisdom is here! The Eternal becomes man in order that God may be just, and yet be the Justifier of him that believes in Jesus. What power also is here, for where is power so great as when it conceals itself? What power, that God should unrobe Himself for a while, and become man! Behold, too, what love is thus revealed to us when Jesus becomes a man; and what faithfulness! How many promises and prophecies are this day fulfilled! How many solemn obligations are this hour discharged! Tell me one attribute of God that you say is not manifest in Jesus; and your ignorance shall be to me the reason why you have not seen it to be so. The whole of God is glorified in Christ; and though some part of the Name of God is written in the material universe, it is best read in Him who was the Son of man, and also the Son of God.Charles Spurgeon. Christ’s Incarnation, the Foundation of Christianity.