Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Greatest Mystery Of Christmas

Today is Advent Sunday, and while the world may kick off their Christmas celebrations with Black Friday (how fitting in a consumer driven society), the Church has the grand opportunity to use this season to reflect upon the doctrine of the Incarnation. This is our time to ponder and stand in awe of the ultimate mystery that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory" (Jn 1:14). We often do a good job of understanding that Christ was born of a virgin and was born into poverty. We contemplate the events surrounding His birth as so much history. Then we skip to the Atonement. He came to die. The end.

It is true that one of the reasons Christ came was to die to redeem us, but maybe we shouldn't rush to the end of the story during this time of year. We have Lent, Good Friday and Easter to contemplate those aspects from a Church calendar standpoint. But this time of year is the season to wrap our minds around the fact of Emmanuel--"God with us." God one of us. The Incarnation is mind blowing. Trying to understand the intricacies of the Theandric Union can either fry our brains or fill us with wonder at the greatness of Almighty God.

Luther wrote: "It is not for the angels to be proud of Christ's incarnation, for Christ did not assume and angelic but a human nature. Therefore it would not be a surprise if the angels looked at us with envy in their eyes because we human beings, creatures far inferior to them and sinners besides, are placed above them into an honor so high and great. They worship Christ, who has become our Brother, our flesh and blood" (Serm. on Col. 1:18-20 quoted in Thomas Oden, The Word of Life).

We have a God who can identify with us! He knows, in an experiential way, our struggles and weaknesses. This is one of the messages of the Advent season. What might it mean that God became flesh? Not just in a systematic theological sort of way but in a personal way. Do we need to sit back and think about that one for a while? That's what this season is all about. That's the greatest mystery of Christmas.

(Originally published 2009 under the title "God With Us" @

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