Something about the incarnation (Advent, Part One)
Last night, we had our final Ministry Team Leaders’ Meeting for the year at The Big Table. It was a great time to reflect on what God has been doing in and through us during 2015.
Two of the team couldn’t make it – the wives of two of the couples on our team had to stay home to look after their children. Totally understandable.
Rather than miss out on the action, their husbands came along armed with FaceTime and iPads and once we’d eaten together, they ‘joined’ us.
Partly technical difficulties and partly the difference between flesh and pixels, it was a poor approximation of the real thing.
Earlier this afternoon I heard one of my daughters singing along to ‘Hark, the herald angels sing’.
With last night’s events fresh in my mind, it got me thinking about the incarnation.
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.”
God didn’t send a message, or an apology, or a hologram. Not even an iPad. He sent himself. He put skin on (in-carne: literally, to put on meat) and came to us. Jesus, our God with skin on.
The writer of the Hebrews describes this moment as the dot in time when the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature, came to dwell with us. The fullness of God was pleased to dwell in this God-man, Jesus. Crazy talk.
He didn’t stand off or stay away; he moved into the neighbourhood. He laid his glory by for the joy of the Father to accomplish something that only he could do: he made us alive again; fully alive, forever cancelling the record of debt that stood against us.
The incarnation opens the door to life and more life. Life now, life later.
“Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
We pray for good things at Christmas. At our best, at our most altruistic and least materialistic, we pray for kingdom stuff: mercy, peace, and love. Good stuff. And I genuinely believe that we can be part of ushering God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
But I also believe, as Paul writes to the Colossians, that these good things are a shadow of things to come, a morsel of the banquet that’s ahead. The substance belongs to Christ. Sure, it’s leaking in and seeping through, and that trickle is glorious, but there’s more to come.
At it’s very best, it’s a harbinger – a sniff of the fulness of goodness that we see through a mirror dimly.
But the real deal has come. And the real deal is coming again.
Among other things, Christmas is a time to get a little introspective over the way in which our thoughts and actions line up with Jesus and his action towards us.
My prayer is that through my thoughts (my praying and meditating on God’s goodness in Jesus) and through my actions (the way I spend my money, my time, and the way my life is patterned after the sublime generosity of that first Christmas), I can be part of the leaking and the seeping that we’re invited to be part of on any given day…including Christmas.
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