Good morning and welcome to the first Sunday of Advent! Our focus over the next few weeks will be the Incarnation – and the Word became flesh and made his home among us.
This is not just an academic exercise. We are going to unpack the reality that for the sake of our salvation, God laid down his infinite glory, majesty, and power, and moved into the limitations of time, energy, matter. He became one of us, in a body just like ours.
It was as if he turned off his smart phone, bagged the texting, tweeting, and every other hi-tech gig he used to create and rule the universe in order to run the risk of a day by day, face to face in the flesh relationship with less than perfect human beings just like us.
Paul puts it this way, “Although he was in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied himself and took on the form of the lowliest of human servants. And as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on the cross.” Phil 2:6-8
The Gospel of John puts it like this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3
For those who aren’t sure who John is referring to, he goes on to make it clear he’s talking about Jesus. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
We call Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem the Incarnation. Beginning in Genesis 3, there are over 300 references in the OT where God promises to send a Savior to his people. Everyone imagined this Savior would be a great warrior, like Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah.
It was inconceivable that God himself would become human for the sake of our salvation. Or that he would himself become the substitute sacrifice for our sins. Or that he would choose to be born in a stable of a questionable pregnancy to a couple of young refugees.
So what does the Lord want to teach us through this miracle we call the Incarnation?
#1 God keeps his promises. Paul writes “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.” 2 Cor 1:20
Scholars tell us there are between 3,000 and 3,500 promises of God in the Bible. But instead of trying to count them, maybe we should start by believing and trusting the ones we already know! For example... “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:21
The Incarnation of Jesus, his death, and resurrection guarantees that every promise God has made in the Bible is true. What’s the first point of the incarnation? God keeps his promises! But that’s not the most important point! Here’s the next one.
#2 All Creation is Sacred. The incarnation teaches us that the matter and energy that make up this universe are sacred. Why? Because the Creator of the Universe chose to clothe himself in them! He didn’t just appear to be human, he was fully human. He drank the same water we drink. He breathed the same air we breathe. His body was made up of the same atoms as ours. He didn’t just call all this into being, he became part of it.
We don’t worship creation, but the Incarnation teaches us we must treat the physical world with great honor rather than exploiting or destroying it. That includes our own bodies, it includes our fellow human beings. In the Incarnation, we learn this world and everything in it is sacred to God. But that’s not the most important point. Here’s the next one. The incarnation also teaches us that…
#3 Sin has infected all of Creation. Mary went through the same labor pains as all mother’s do. She wasn’t exempt because she carried the Savior of the world in her womb. Following the fall in the Garden of Eden, the Lord warned Eve that she would bear her children through great pain. The pain, disease, death we experience in this world is rooted in sin. Jesus did not exempt himself from this reality. He was born in the same way we are.
Isaiah 53 tells us “he was despised, rejected, a man of sorrow, familiar with suffering. He took up our infirmities, carried our sorrows… and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all”.
Humans aren’t the only ones who suffer from the consequences of sin. Paul tells us that all creation has been groaning together as we wait for our redemption. The story of the Incarnation is filled with the pain of life in this world – disease, war, famine, corrupt politicians, disaster, the inconveniences that come our way every day, Jesus experienced them all – from womb to tomb, he wasn’t exempt from any of our pain.
In the incarnation, we are brought face to face with the reality that sin has infected all of creation. But that’s not the most important thing. What else does the incarnation teach us?
#4 How much God loves us and refuses to give up on us. In the Incarnation we learn how much God loves us. How committed he is to restoring our relationship with him. God not only loves us, he likes us! He wants to be friends with us, walk and talk and fellowship with us. He wants to invite us into the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He wants us to be part of his family. He wants to sit at the table together with us.
All the things Jesus did with his disciples are examples of what God wants to do with us. He wants to go fishing together, sit around the campfire together, work together, laugh and cry together. When we try to push him away, he keeps coming back. In the incarnation we learn that God is a friend that won’t be pushed away. But that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing the incarnation teaches us is this…
#5 The seriousness of sin and the incredible cost God paid for our Redemption. Jesus didn’t come just to teach us that God keeps his promises, as important as that is. He didn’t come just to show us that all creation belongs to God and is precious to him. He didn’t come to expose us to the truth of how deeply sin has infected the world or to demonstrate God’s desire to be friends with us.
The deepest truth of the Incarnation is that Jesus came to die. He came as the Passover lamb who would give his life as a sacrifice of atonement. He came to shed his blood and die in our place to pay in full the debt of our sin.
The Bible tells us that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” Hebrews 9:22 The Incarnation was a conspiracy of grace. Not all conspiracies are wicked. A conspiracy is a plan, a cooperative effort, a strategy to solve a problem. The problem was sin and how it separates us from the One who created and loved us.
Because of God’s foreknowledge, the Bible tells us that this plan for our salvation was put in place from eternity past. That’s hard to wrap my mind around. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit came together in the war room of heaven to put a plan in place for our salvation.
This is important for us to understand. Two things needed to be accomplished in order for the problem of sin to be overcome. First, God must remain holy and just. Sin must be judged, our debt must be paid in full. The law was clear; the soul that sins must die.
So how was God to remain just and yet forgive and restore sinners to himself? The answer was that God himself must pay the penalty. So the Father gave the Son, the Son gave his life, and the Holy Spirit agreed to come, convict of sin and prompt faith in human hearts.
We must understand Satan had nothing to do with any of this, except to try and prevent it from happening. But what an incredible example of love and humility and sacrifice by all three members of the Trinity! All for the sake of restoring us to fellowship with him!
Paul says, “God made him who had no sin to become sin for us that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21
Through the incarnation of Jesus, God provided a man, a man just like you and me, who though he was tempted in every way just like us, he never sinned. He lived an absolutely sinless life. The reason he did so was so that he would be qualified to do what no one else could do. That is to take our sin upon himself, die in our place under the righteous judgment of God. He came to pay our debt before God in full, and then clothe us in his righteousness as a gift to be received by faith. What amazing love! What unfathomable grace!
Over the next few weeks we’ll look at three more lessons in the Incarnation, this amazing event in which the Word became flesh and made his home among us. I hope you’ll be here!