Hope is an interesting word. We often use it with a tinge of pessimism: “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” However, biblical faith speaks of settled confidence in God and His promises. In a very real sense the incarnation, the act of Jesus, the Son of God, taking on human flesh, brought us dawning hope.
In the very first chapter of John’s Gospel, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 12-14).
We discover that God the Son became human without ceasing to be divine. He became what He was not while remaining what He always was. In the fourth century, Athanasius expressed it in a way that has never been improved upon: “The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well…At one and the same time – this is the wonder – as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the Universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father.”
This loving act of the incarnation allowed Christ to identify with us to the fullest. John declares that He “dwelt among us” (v. 14). Literally translated, the Greek states that He “pitched a tent” or “tabernacled” in our midst. Eugene Peterson’s Message paraphrase reads that He “moved into our neighborhood.” Jesus made Himself vulnerable in His humanity and by entering directly into our own condition, littered with frustration and hurt, tasted our predicament and embraced our despair. As Stephen Seamonds suggests: “This means that God has not only “spoken” to us through His Son (Heb 1:2), He has also “listened” to us. He has shared in the fellowship of our sufferings and heard our cries.” Therefore, the answer to the common question, Does God really care?” has been answered through the incarnation with an emphatic “Yes.” This loving act has a practical implication. Since God has come to us in such a significant way to meet us where we are at, we in sharing Christ’s love and message can’t do it from afar. We must “move into the neighborhood” too! It is when we invest time and meet people where they are at that the gospel breaks through.
The loving act of the incarnation provides revelation at its clearest. How do we explain the existence of God? It is not enough to say that God exists in the same way we might say Canandaigua Lake exists or that a certain person exists because God is in and of Himself existence. All other realities exist through Him. The simple truth is that if the incarnation never occurred, we would be left simply explaining what God is not. As a result, if we are to know anything about God in any certainty He has to reveal it to us Himself. God must take the initiative to show Himself to us. God has done just that through His Son, Jesus Christ. John explained it this way: “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (John 1:18). The apostle Paul explained it this way: “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” (Col 2:9). God does not merely desire to communicate with us, but to commune with us. He has made this possible through a face-to-face, person-to-person encounter with the living God. God so loved the world that He went beyond a simple text or post and came in person. This truth, in part, is why the church, Christ’s body, is called to partner with Him in reaching those far from Him, yet close to His heart. The truth of the gospel is most convincing when it is embodied in a person or a community of persons. When others see us live our lives in partnership with Christ, they are much more likely to believe.
The loving act of the incarnation provides redemption at its finest. God has been committed to making right what went horribly wrong in the Garden, where Adam betrayed God and chose to do life his own way apart from the Lord. Through the incarnation, God took the ultimate step in that commitment. He showed His love for humanity by becoming human. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, “God has now shown us the high place human nature holds in creation, for He entered into it by genuinely becoming man.” Not only did God become man, but He did so, living in our fallen world, while remaining righteous (living rightly) and holy (totally pure). Because of Christ, we can be transformed. The word C. S. Lewis used for change is transposition, where a lower reality is actually drawn into a higher one and becomes a part of it. What Lewis is suggesting is that “Humanity, still remaining itself, is not merely counted as, but veritably drawn into, Deity.” William Placher, in his book Jesus the Savior, sums it up well: “When the word became flesh, what it means to be human changed for us – you, me the Opioid addict huddled on a street corner – because in one human being humanity was united with divinity. Now that is dawning hope!
I am thankful to do life with each of you sharing in the hope Christ’s incarnation has brought us as well as sharing His hope with the world around us. As God loved us enough to meet us where we are at, lets in His power, love others by doing the same as we share His love and message.