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The Incarnation and Me

December 24, 2015

In a few hours I’ll be going to Christmas Eve service, as millions have been doing and will be doing across the world tonight.  I’ll be soaking in the awe inspiring thought that God became man.  There is so much about the Christmas story that amazes me.  I hang on every word and, like Mary I guess, ponder them.  In fact I’ve been thinking about Mary all day.  These words from Luke 1:7 have been rolling around in my head –

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” 

This is certainly an awe-inspiring picture of the God of all creation entering human life in the lowliest way possible.  I can’t help but wonder, though, what was Mary thinking?  A manger?  A place full of bovine slobber and who knows what else?  Couldn’t she just hold the baby?  Or give it to Joseph to hold?  You could almost think that Mary, who clearly knew what this baby represented, deliberately decided to give an example to the ages of the humility of the birth of Jesus.

Other questions puzzle me.    Here is another from verse 20–

“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

These guys were the first missionaries and yet there is no record of their “witness” bearing fruit.  I can’t help but think that their message was greeted with disbelief, perhaps because of that manger thing.  I wonder how long it took them to get discouraged or even so angry that they smashed a big shepherd fist into someone’s nose.  If anyone wants proof that evangelism is hard, there it is.

The amazing thing about the incarnation, well, one of them anyway, is that following his glorious but little-known entry into this world, Jesus seems to have managed to live 30 years without anyone in the neighborhood noticing.  Urgency seems not to have been an issue with God.  Rather, it seems that the 30 years were used to make it clear that Jesus was one of them – fully human.

Nowadays “incarnational” is a ministry buzz word.  We are told we need to be incarnational in our approach to witness.  Setting aside the cheekiness that implies somehow we can mimic the actual incarnation, the idea seems to be just go and be among the people to bring them the Gospel.  This is fine if we interpret “be among” the same way Jesus seemed to; if we take our time, get to know and be known; being  ready when the time is right to say more.  Mostly however I see the term used differently.  It seems to go something like this:

Me (the supposed incarnational one) to you (the target) for evangelism (the actual goal).

In other words, it is all about getting to the point.  OK, maybe 30 years is a long time to take to let people get to know you.  But we usually aren’t willing to take 30 days, or sometimes even 30 minutes.  I think tonight, at the Christmas Eve service, I will just soak up the awe of the incarnation and let it rest in my soul.  It is hard enough to follow Jesus without feeling that somehow I’ve got to drag people along with me.  It probably won’t be long before people drop the use of the term incarnational anyway.  Maybe if I just look like I know where I am going someone might ask for directions.

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From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. Sue Jiang permalink

    Thank you so much for these thoughts! Much appreciated on this Christmas day as I too, ponder the incarnation and the mysteries.

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