Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Personal Reflections on the Incarnation

by Bill Brace

Quite frankly, the incarnation touches my heart and mind almost as much as does the stupendous event on the cross of Calvary. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for this time of year ever since I was a young boy growing up in the hinterlands of Eastern Canada. Christmas was always the highlight and most delightful time in our family calendar. Preparations, led by my father, brought with them plenty of excitement and anticipation as the weeks and days wound down and then finally culminated in the wonders of the early morning hours, before sunrise, mind you, on December 25. We were a poor family of six children but always seemed to be well provided for on that festive occasion. I now more fully appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears my mother and father put into the holiday to make it a special treat for all of us eager children.

And now that many decades have elapsed, and I have, perhaps, a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the real reason for the celebration, it has taken on a whole new wealth of significance for me. And, yes, I know, as do you, this is most likely not the time of Christ’s birth in our annual calendar. However, the Saviour of our world was born; we do know that for sure! When, on occasion, I have my congregations sing carols in midsummer, it is a way of eliminating December as an exclusive time for such. The angels sang at His birth, and so may we—at any time of year.

The incarnation story, though, just continues to amaze me. The events and circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus are pure Hollywood. No, better than Hollywood; much, much better. The humble mother, the perplexed Joseph, the stable, the shepherds—all constitute part of a romantic setting that grows in our minds with each passing year. But, most of all, contemplation of a truth that the mighty God, the Creator of the universe, humbled Himself and became one of us, has often brought tears to my eyes and a peace to my inner soul as nothing save the cross can do. I do believe, with certainty, the meaning of the cross is in the incarnation. They are, indeed, of the same stripe.

Moreover, Jesus reveals something wonderful about the Godhead through His incarnation two millennia previous to our time. Yes, most importantly, it seems to me anyway, we see the ultimate manifestation of the “going down” of divine agape in His becoming one with us. The infinite becomes finite. The thought, the fact, simply overwhelms me. It engulfs my entire being. And without reservation I remind you—it is to be the story and the study of eternity.

The apostle Paul announced the meaning of the birth with alacrity, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5).[1] We can argue what meaning is intended by Paul’s usage of the words “under the law,” “redeem,” and “adoption” in these modest verses, but we can never deny the fact that the apostle understood the infinite ramifications of the birth of His Saviour for all the inhabitants of planet earth. The Saviour of the world had come. He had come to make atonement, a work of restoration, for us poor, needy, and weakened sinners.

In so doing He took upon Himself our very nature and demonstrated what faith can accomplish through the much more abounding grace bestowed upon us. We see in Jesus the potential that lies in every soul, especially among those who have come to experience a heart appreciation of the gift’s enormous cost.

So, as you prepare sermons appropriate for the season, as you experience family get-togethers, as you contemplate the first advent in light of the second, may the inner joy it all prompts be a taste of what is yet to be. And may the words of the excited angels, those chosen to share with the surprised shepherds outside the parameters of Bethlehem that dark night, give you great happiness:

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace,

goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)

The servant of the Lord, Ellen White, pictures the intended result of the incarnation this way: “And through endless ages as the redeemed walk in the light of the Lord, they will praise Him for His unspeakable Gift—Immanuel, ‘God with us.’ ”[2]

I make no apologies when I say the story never gets old. Indeed it prompts me to exclaim, “What a God!”

[1] All scriptures are taken from the New King James Version.

[2] Ellen White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1940), 26.

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