Summary: The Incarnation of Jesus is God’s great gift to mankind revealing What God Has Done, How He Did It, Why We Need His Amazing Grace, and What Are Our Obligations.
THE INCARNATION OF JESUS
John Betjeman wrote some memorable lines on the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘And is it true this most tremendous tale of all, / The Maker of the stars and sea / Became a child on earth for me?’ It is true, we believe, but it isn’t quite the whole truth: for the whole truth is that the Maker became a man and was thus uniquely qualified to be man’s redeemer. I came across a classic quotation which complements the truth revealed by the apostle John in the opening chapter of his Gospel: ‘If Jesus had not been man, He could not have redeemed men. If He had not been a righteous man, He could not have redeemed unrighteous men. And if He had not been God’s Son, He could not have redeemed men for God or made them the sons of God.’
Let me remind you of John’s declaration of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). That’s a wonderful statement but let me put it in down to earth terms of flesh and blood. A little boy was trying to get to sleep but was frightened. He shouted down from the bedroom, ‘Dad, it’s dark up here and I’m scared.’ His father shouted back, ‘Don’t be afraid. God is with you.’ After a few second’s pause, the boy yelled again: ‘Get up here, Dad - I need somebody with skin on!’ This is the reality of the Incarnation.
God’s moment had arrived. The prophecy unfolded over the centuries by the Hebrew prophets had to be fulfilled - and it was. The angel announced to the amazed shepherds, ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11). He was born in Bethlehem because he was of David’s royal line. And yet in David’s city, the heir of the House of David found no room, even in the inn. So the baby was born in a place where cattle were kept. How wonderful that our Saviour should begin His earthly life in this way.
Jesus wasn’t merely a helpless baby in the manger. He was the Living Word, and He was the Light of the World. Jesus came to bring to us eternal life, He came to bring grace; He came to bring us truth. That is what Christmas is all about. When you see it in that light, what a reason to rejoice and be thankful that Jesus came as God in the flesh – Emmanuel, God with us.
The birth of a baby in a stable was unusual, but no doubt it had happened before and will happen again among the extremely poor and underprivileged. There are millions even today who are living in refugee camps and in shantytowns surrounding the world’s big cities. The wonder in the situation arises when we consider Who the baby was. This was the Son of God. This wasn’t the beginning of His life. He had lived from all eternity in heaven. His hands made the universe. Why did He come into our world? St Paul makes it clear: ‘though he was rich, for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich’ (2 Cor 8:9). It was all for our sake, that He might be our Saviour.
Terry Waite, who was a hostage in Lebanon for five long years, tells in his autobiography, how for month after month he was kept chained hand and foot. Most of his clothes were taken from him, his shoes and even his watch. For hours at a time he could only curl up as a baby and he says he felt just as helpless. As Christmas time came round he thought, ‘Well, that’s how Jesus must have been - utterly vulnerable and dependent on others. He had left the presence of His Father, left the glories of heaven to take on human form, as a helpless baby.’
The stupendous fact is that here we have the wonder of the universe. Charles Wesley’s hymn tells us that in the Incarnation we see, ‘Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man!’ The philosopher Pascal wrote, ‘Say what you will, there is something in the Christian religion that is astonishing.’ Dorothy Sayers said what happened at Bethlehem is nothing less than "the personal irruption of God into human history.’ Or to put it in Bible language, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ God and man were united in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ. He didn’t just appear as a man; He became one. He didn’t cease to be God. The babe in the manger isn’t only Mary’s child, He is God’s Son. Bethlehem is the meeting point of Heaven and Earth, of eternity and time, of deity and humanity. Let’s see: