With Christmas upon us, many Christians will meditate upon the importance of the birth of Jesus, or the Incarnation. Incarnation literally means “in the flesh.” Over two-thousand years ago, God actually showed up in the flesh as a little cooing baby born in a livestock stall in city of Bethlehem. His arrival was somewhat on the down low, but important enough that angels appeared to tell shepherds, who in turn publicized the news (Luke 2:8-20), the magi journeyed for months to find him (Matthew 2:1-12), and Herod the king was furious and fearful enough to try and kill him (Matthew 2:13-23).
Because of the busyness and pace of the season, sometimes we must battle for devotion and clarity when it comes to focusing on the true meaning of the holiday. As someone who works a full-time job (while trying to plant a church), and whose work hours increase this time of year (along with stress levels), it’s sometimes hard for me to stay focused on anything but getting Christmas over with! Christmas should be a joyful time, a giving time, and a time to be with family and friends. But, we should use this season as a reminder to meditate upon the Incarnation of Christ. Obviously, we ought to dwell upon this throughout the year, not just once a year.
With these things in mind, I wanted to create a devotional of sorts to help me stay focused. If you would graciously read it, I hope it’ll minister to you also. There are many more reasons than five on why the Incarnation is important. But, here are five reasons that I believe will serve us well as we strive to make much of the Incarnation of Jesus during Christmas (and beyond).
The Incarnation fulfills prophecy, therefore lending reliability, credibility, and unity to the Word of God. The coming of the Messiah, Jesus, was already being foretold all the way back in Genesis 3:15 (fulfilled in Matthew 1:20; Galatians 4:4). His birth was foretold throughout the Old Testament , and fulfilled with amazing precision and accuracy. Because of this, the Incarnation proves that the Bible is reliable, credible, and unified. These things are important to us because if something was foretold and wasn’t fulfilled, we’d have cause to doubt the Word. But, because the birth of Christ happened just as was declared years before, we can have comfort and assurance in its veracity. Here are eleven prophecies – among many – concerning Christ’s birth, and their New Testament fulfillment:
– Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-6.
– Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:26-31.
– From the lineage of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). Fulfilled in Matthew 1:1; Romans 9:5.
– Isaac’s descendant (Genesis 17:19; 21:12). Fulfilled in Luke 3:34.
– Jacob’s descendant (Numbers 24:17). Fulfilled in Matthew 1:2.
– From the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). Fulfilled in Luke 3:33; Hebrews 7:14.
– Heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 9:7); Fulfilled in Luke 1:32-33; Romans 1:3.
– His throne will be eternal (Psalm 45:6-7; Daniel 2:44). Fulfilled in Luke 1:33; Hebrews 1:8-12.
– Called Immanuel (“God with us”) (Isaiah 7:14); Fulfilled in Matthew 1:23.
– Spent time hiding out in Egypt (Hosea 11:1). Fulfilled in Matthew 2:14-15.
– A massacre of children would happen at Messiah’s birthplace (Jeremiah 31:15). Fulfilled in Matthew 2:16-18.
The Incarnation teaches the dual nature of Christ (fully God, fully man). It is important that we understand Jesus as being fully God and fully man. He wasn’t half God/part man. This is important because not long after Jesus ascended, there were those who came teaching that Jesus wasn’t truly divine, while some taught that he wasn’t an actual flesh and blood human.
Things haven’t changed much today. People still find the hypostatic union of Jesus to be a stumbling block. The Incarnation demonstrates that in Jesus Christ the “Word became flesh and dwelled among us” (John 1:14). By emphasizing “flesh,” John is saying Jesus was fully human, not half human. John also equally emphasizes the divinity, or godhood, of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). He makes it clear that Jesus was God – “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Likewise, Colossians 2:9 emphatically states: “In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” and 1 John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched, this is what we are speaking about, namely, the Word who is the Life.” None of the human authors of the Bible had issue with the dual Godhood and manhood of Jesus. Indeed, they understood that Jesus was the second Person of the Trinity, and that he revealed the complete character, mission, and message of God.
The Incarnation crushes the works of Satan. This point was prophesied in Genesis 3:15. When Jesus was born, Satan must’ve been counting down the days until the cross. One of the primary reasons Jesus came in the flesh was to put an end to Satan’s hold on the world (2 Corinthians 4:4). We find that he controls every false idea about God, and his ultimate desire is to destroy God’s kingdom and make a mockery of Jesus. We see this in how he moved Herod to attempt to murder Jesus shortly after his birth (Matthew 2:13-16). The enemy will go to any lengths – even murder – to see his schemes prevail (John 10:10).
But, the Incarnation of Jesus served notice that Satan’s time is short: “The reason that the Son of God appeared [in the flesh] was to undo the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). “Now, since all these children share flesh and blood, he [Jesus] also took on flesh and blood to be like them, so that by his death he might take away all the power of him who had the power of death (that is, the devil)” (Heb. 2:14).
The Incarnation declares God’s glory. The introduction of John’s Gospel reveals that the Incarnation of Jesus declared the glory of God. This has always amazed me considering the scandal that accompanied his birth announcement (Virgin becomes pregnant; fiance not the father.), as well as his place of birth (Backwater ghetto. In a cave. In a feed trough.), and the first recipients of the good news (Shepherds. “Call of the Wildman,” A.D. 1 edition, anyone?) The Jews were expecting something a little more regal from the Messiah. But, Christ’s birth totally confounded them. A God whose glory is displayed in its humility? The Incarnation – its simplicity, humility, and glory – is still confounding people in 2013!
Even in all these things Jesus is still the ultimate revelation of God. He declares the glory and greatness of God. Hebrews 1:1-3 declares, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” John says that Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (1:14). All these glorious attributes (and many more) reflect God’s glory perfectly. In Jesus we can know and experience God’s grace: the Just as a substitute for the unjust, offered freely and at no cost to the offender; we can know and experience God’s truth: Jesus is truth, the truth about God is found in him. Only in him (John 14:6).
The Incarnation guaranteed Jesus would die to save us. The manger had to occur in order for our Lord to begin his journey to the cross. He was born to die. Though we celebrate the birth of Christ, it is his death that secured our redemption. We love to remember the “sweet baby Jesus boy” in all his tenderness and innocence, but shudder to think of our Bloody Substitute as he gasped for his final breath and declared “It is finished” some 33 years later (John 19:30). Bottom line: without the Incarnation there never would’ve been a cross (Matthew 1:21).