Continued from Reflections on the Incarnation, Part I
December 23, 2009
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV)
Let’s pause and consider the implications of the incarnation. The passage above has always captured it best for me. What God did was above all else a sacrifice – a gift exchange so to speak. Yet we come to the party with empty hands, worse yet, dirty hands. And God, he comes offering to us all of the riches of the universe. It has been said that the incarnation is the most amazing miracle of God – the creator of the world and everything in it, being made like us. The precursor to and perhaps a sacrifice even greater than Christ’s death on the cross for our sins, was that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The One who owns all the riches of the universe became poor in order that we who were poor might become rich. What an exchange! And what riches are we offered? Grace. Forgiveness. Redemption. Eternal life. A new identity as a child of God and a new family! We were given something that we did not deserve and never could have earned ourselves. It is clear from the passage that God did this for our sakes. He had you and me in mind! And what exactly did it look like for God to become poor for our sakes? Elsewhere, Paul sums it up like this. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5-7 NIV) It is nice to pause here in this wonderful passage of Scripture to contemplate the weight of this statement – it is pointing to the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Christ’s example is that he took on human nature, and that not in the form of an elite and powerful human, but as a lower class servant – starting out as a helpless child and later becoming an obscure Galilean and then crucified as a criminal. Paul continues the story. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) One cannot or at least should not ever consider the manger out of the context of the cross. The cross was Christ’s purpose and that is why it was a matter of obedience. Christ was obedient by fulfilling his purpose. His purpose is wonderfully stated by Paul as another great exchange. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NIV) That statement follows the incarnation pattern – through Christ, God gave all he had in order that we might be lifted out of poverty and into incredible riches. Christ’s purpose for coming was our redemption. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
In conclusion, I have noticed three points of application based on the truth of the incarnation. First, we have been given a new possession – from poverty to riches. This possession is the gospel – the good news! We have been given the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. We’ve been given grace! Can we ever say, “Thank you” enough?! Dare we keep it to ourselves or shall we proclaim it freely? These riches in Christ are for all!
Second, we have been given a new preoccupation – generosity toward others and humility that puts their needs above our own. That is the context of both the Corinthians and Philippians passages considered above. Paul is encouraging us to have an attitude and actions like Christ and he uses the incarnation as his major point of motivation. The response of those who comprehend the meaning of “God with us” is not just to be wowed, but also to be like him. Christ has given us an example of generosity, humility and service and we are called to follow in doing the same. Now that is the true spirit of Christmas!
Finally, we should be compelled to a new position – worship. Paul finishes his great incarnation passage in Philippians with a powerful statement of worship. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV) Above all else, Christmas is a time to bring glory to God in the highest – a time to joyfully declare that Jesus Christ is Lord! The more we understand the mystery of “God with us,” the more we will praise him. Have you seen the glory of the One and Only God, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth? If so, then loose your tongues to joyfully declare and sing, might I even suggest shout, that…
Christ is the Lord
O praise his name forever
His power and glory
(from O Holy Night by John S. Dwight, 1813-1893)