in·car·na·tion/ˌinkärˈnāSH(ə)n/

Incarnation. It means, for Christians, that the second Person of the trinitarian Godhead, the Son, became a flesh and blood human being. That’s why there is a Christmas. It’s why people put nativity scenes on their front lawns and in their homes.

John in his gospel puts it this way:

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. 

John 1:14 (CSB)

I love how Eugene Peterson translates this verse in The Message:

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.

John 1:14 (MSG)

Theologians down through history have helped us grasp something of the unfathomably profound significance of the incarnation.

“The nativity mystery “conceived from the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary”, means, that God became human, truly human out of his own grace. The miracle of the existence of Jesus , his “climbing down of God” is: Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary! Here is a human being, the Virgin Mary, and as he comes from God, Jesus comes also from this human being. Born of the Virgin Mary means a human origin for God. Jesus Christ is not only truly God, he is human like every one of us. He is human without limitation. He is not only similar to us, he is like us.”

Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline

“The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed from a virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it. Thus is happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord’s body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished.”

Athanasius, On the Incarnation

“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.”

Augustine of Hippo

Michael Spencer, in his book Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to a Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, writes:

“Without the incarnation, Christianity isn’t even a very good story, and most sadly, it means nothing. “Be nice to one another” is not a message that can give my life meaning, assure me of love beyond brokenness, and break open the dark doors of death with the key of hope. The incarnation is an essential part of Jesus-shaped spirituality.”

Michael Spencer, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to a Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

The Nicene Creed is a statement of belief that most churches accept. It goes back partially to the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) with additions by the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381). It was accepted in its present form at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. It speaks of Jesus this way:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.

The Nicene Creed

So as you anticipate Christmas day, take a few moments on this Christmas Eve to breathe and exhale, to close your eyes and remind yourself of the miracle of the incarnation.

And may you and your family be blessed by the knowledge that Jesus, the Word made flesh, is indeed Immanuel, God with us.

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