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The Word Became Flesh


The Word Became Flesh

The Humiliation of the Incarnation

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…” (John 1:14). Take a moment to ponder the wonder, the miracle of the incarnation. The Word, whom John has told us was in the beginning and created all things, in whom was all life, takes on flesh. The glorious King of Kings becomes a crying baby in a dirty stable. Very God of very God becomes fully man.

Headaches. Hangnails. Heartbreaks. Hiccups. And much more. How humiliating our bodies can be! They often don’t work the way we want them to, don’t feel the way we wish they would, and don’t reflect the dignity for which we were created. Sometimes they can be downright embarrassing, can’t they? And Jesus offers to take it all on—to set aside the glory of heaven for the humiliation of earth.

Isn’t it incredible that the God who created us perfect and in his image actually takes on flesh and walks among a broken creation suffering under his curse? Jesus does exactly that. He humbles himself… he weeps, he thirsts, he hungers, he hurts… he humbles himself even to the point of death. What an incredible sacrifice!

The word used for “dwelt” in John 1 is the word for “tabernacle” in the Old Testament—the place where God lived among his people. And immediately when the holy God comes to live among his sinful people, sacrifices are necessary for that to happen. Likewise, sacrifices are required for Jesus to “tabernacle” with us; the difference is that this time Jesus himself is the sacrifice. The humiliation of the incarnation is complete as the God “in whom was life” dies for his people.

RESPOND:
Have you thanked Jesus lately for the humiliation he endured for you and the sacrifice required to live with us? Marvel afresh at the miracle of his love that prompted him to become flesh.

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God of the Lonely

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever thought you deserved to be lonely? Have you ever felt no one should want to be around you, much less live with you? If we’re honest, the last time we felt we should live on the Island of Misfit Toys with the others who didn’t quite fit in wasn’t when we got cut from the middle school football team. Even surrounded by people every day, we know what it’s like to feel alone.

One of my favorite names given to Jesus in the Bible is “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” Isn’t that remarkable? Of all the people we can’t imagine wanting to be with us, God must be at the top of the list. We could never be worthy of that! And yet in Jesus God moves near. That’s the message of Christmas: When we have turned our backs on God, when we have isolated ourselves from others, when no one else seems to be on our side, God is with us.

In fact, he wants to be with us. He chooses to move toward us even when we are choosing to turn from him. I think I’ve sung about Emmanuel so many times and known what it means for so long that it often fails to amaze or startle me. God with us. He wants to be with us. He chooses to have a relationship with me. God doesn’t want you to be alone. He likes you too much. In fact, it’s so important to him that you know his love that he entered your world and your life and promises never to leave you or forsake you. God with us. God with you—today and always!

RESPOND:
Think of someone you know who might feel lonely this Christmas season. How could you share with them the comfort of Emmanuel’s presence? How could you be a tangible expression to them that God is with them?

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God With Us: Rejoice!

I love hearing Christmas music… even in November… or June! The music, the lights, the decorations, the parties all are an attempt at making the Christmas season “the most wonderful time of the year,” “the hap-, happiest season of all.” And people will rightly point out that much of that happiness comes from manufactured, circumstantial positive feelings. But what all of that is meant to point to, I believe, is an appropriate response to the wonder of Christmas: true joy!

That emotion is at the heart of the Christmas carol, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The chorus of that song says, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!” Why rejoice? What’s the basis of the joy? God is coming to you. He’s coming to a people in exile, undeserving of his presence or his blessing, distant from him because of their sin, wondering if there is any hope or future for them. And the answer is that although they have wandered from God, God is coming to be with them.

Amazing, isn’t it? God with people who have run from him in their sin. This means he’s coming with forgiveness, to fix the brokenness of the relationship he created his people to have with him. In the words of the song, he’s coming to “ransom captive Israel,” he’s coming to “make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to misery,” he’s coming to “give them victory o’er the grave.” Rejoice! Rejoice! Those are reasons not merely for circumstantial happiness but for abiding joy. Because God is with us, our joy will never end.

RESPOND:
Have you stopped to appreciate the joy the incarnation brings to you? Consider your own peril apart from Jesus, the hopelessness you were facing, and the hope he has brought you. Truly rejoice in the true joy of Christmas!

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In His Steps

I love the many movies where someone has to travel great distances and overcome many obstacles to make it to his loved ones on Christmas morning. Has someone ever journeyed hours to be with you? Doesn’t that communicate something about their love and commitment to you?

Now consider the great distance Jesus travelled in the incarnation, the first Christmas journey. In the words of the great Christmas hymn, he went from thrones to a manger, sapphire-paved courts to stable floor. He journeyed from glory and comfort into a world of humility and pain. He refused to let anything keep him from us as he literally moved heaven and earth to enter our mess, to take on our infirmities, to be familiar with our suffering.

If we are to love others as Jesus has loved us (and we are), if we are to walk in his steps (and we are), then our footsteps will carry us toward pain, brokenness, and suffering. There is plenty of mess, sin, and hurt in our world these days, but I find that I am usually seeking to move away from it rather than toward it. Christmas reminds me this is not the path my Savior chose. The footprints of the incarnation are travelling a long way in the other direction.

Like a firefighter rushing into a burning building while others are rushing out, Jesus calls us to enter into the mess of others’ lives even at potentially great cost to ourselves. Recall that it cost him his very life. So in calling us to live “incarnationally” and “sacrificially,” he doesn’t call us to go anywhere that we can’t already see his footprints.

RESPOND:
Where would “incarnational” living take you? Whose pain or mess have you been avoiding that Jesus would call you to engage? Pray that God would give you the courage and perseverance to walk a long journey in the direction of your Savior’s footprints.