GCI Superintendents share their thoughts about the Incarnation
Heber Ticas, Latin America
As a child, my parents never celebrated Christmas, therefore my understanding of Christmas was influenced by my surroundings. Christmas was about lights, gifts, parties, time off from school, but never about the Bethlehem miracle where the incarnate Son of God becomes one with us in Christ Jesus. As my understanding of the Christmas miracle expanded, the Incarnation became very meaningful.
Although the Christmas season still comes with lights, gifts, parties and now time off from work, the incarnation of the Son of God is at the center for me. I look forward to Advent with the expectation of pausing from everyday life to reflect on the unimaginable reality of the Creator becoming one with his creation. Pondering this truth, alongside my spouse, children, and spiritual family, has become a life-giving experience. The Christmas symbols have become profoundly meaningful as they point back to the Bethlehem story. The Incarnation is at the center of my faith and a constant reminder that I am wrapped in the triune life, through the Son and by the Spirit.
Gavin Henderson, Europe
For me, I love that the Incarnation expresses God’s confidence in his ultimate plans for creation and humanity. When Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead, took on human form, God himself took humanity into his inner eternal being. Like the rainbow is a sign of God’s promise to never destroy the earth in a flood, the Incarnation is a sign of God’s eternal commitment to humanity. When the Word took on flesh, it was not for it just to be later discarded, but rather for it to be changed and made permanent. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, it heralded the eternal future that is in store for all those who are in Jesus Christ.
Celebrating the Incarnation is more than just celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is celebrating God’s commitment to humanity, and, on a more personal level, his commitment to us. It is one thing to think that God loves me, but it blows me away to think that he loves me so much that he wants to spend eternity with me. That despite my sin – my flaws and mistakes – God sees something in me, something I cannot see in myself, that is worthy of his eternal love.
When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate his eternal love for us. We honour that love, not in the gifts we receive, or the food we eat, but in the love we show for those Christ also came into the world for.
Kalengule Kaoma, Africa
December 25th is approaching, and Christmas carols are playing in malls and other public places. The music reminds me of the birth of Jesus Christ. My mind is whirling with several ideas at the thought of what the birth of Jesus means. This birth is commonly referred to as “Incarnation.” What does Incarnation mean to me?
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Incarnation as “the union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ.” Dictionary.com indicates Incarnation as “the Christian belief that the Son, the second person of the Trinity, was incarnated, or made flesh, in the person of Jesus, in order to save the world from original sin.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary has the following on Incarnation: “act of grace whereby Christ took our human nature into union with his Divine Person, became man.”
The Incarnation is God’s gracious move into my life as Emmanuel – God with me. He has become everything good to me. Here are some faith-based, personal understandings revealed in several scriptures. Through the Incarnation, Jesus became the way for me to know the Father, who explains the truth about the purpose of my life.
Further, through the Incarnation, I have a friend who acts in several roles on my behalf on earth and in heaven. In my friend, Jesus Christ, I have a great high priest and a great Advocate who is seated on the throne of authority in heaven. This great high priest covers me with his robes of righteous forgiveness and presents me to the Father as a forgiven individual. He also defends me and vindicates me as a redeemed, renewed, restored, and justified person.
To me, the Incarnation is not just about the birth of Jesus. It is the life of Jesus: his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ministry in my life. Through the Incarnation, I have been invited to participate in the life of Jesus. He came that I may have life. His life exemplifies how I should live. Through Jesus’s death, I have died to sin. Jesus Christ has become my resurrection. My life is now anchored in his resurrected life so that my hope does not hope in vain for the resurrection when my body dies in this life.
The Incarnation is God’s gift of his life to me so that I live in him, for him, and about him.
* Scripture references: Rev 21:3; Matthew 1:23; John 1:14; John 10:10; John 14:6; Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)
Danny Zachariah, Asia
In my country, India, God is believed to be undefinable. “It” has no physical features, is beyond all qualities that earthly creatures are familiar with. At the most, one may describe God to be a “principle.” This ultimate “principle” comes down to earth, again and again, every time humanity is in distress. This is called an “Avatar.” Many believe Jesus Christ was an avatar who was among the many millions of manifestations of this undefinable and ultimate reality.
When I read the biblical account of the Incarnation, I realized that the coming of Jesus Christ goes much beyond of what an avatar is. In the Incarnation, Jesus takes on real flesh. He is not merely an appearance or a manifestation. The Incarnation is permanent; Jesus takes on our humanity to remain in the “glorified body” forever making intercession for us. Most important of all, Jesus defeats evil and death in his fleshly body once and for all, and shares his gloried, resurrected state with all humanity. And this is what inspires me most – that the eternal God is so loving, gracious, and personal that, in Jesus, he has decided to reside in and with me forever. May the reality of the Incarnation inspire all of humanity to embrace the greatest gift of all – himself!
Daphne Sidney, Australasia
When I was growing up as part of a large family, the youngest of nine children in fact, Christmas Day was pretty special. We all knew that Mum and Dad kept the Christmas gifts hidden in the dark recesses of a big old wardrobe in their bedroom. This was a big heavy old wardrobe like you would imagine in a CS Lewis story. As a child you could almost climb in and expect to find an exit door somewhere. Well, that old wardrobe certainly held some Christmas mysteries for us kids. In those days on the farm, gifts were few and far between! Christmas Day finally arrived, and the mysteries were solved. Each child received a treasured gift, carefully wrapped the evening before – can you imagine wrapping so many gifts in those days before we had the convenience of gift-bags! So much love and care was poured out to ensure we each had our special gift.
Well, there are so many aspects of this story which, upon reflection, help me feel the love of the Father for his children and the deeper meaning of Christmas. My childhood mystery of the gift, and how it was made possible, is a tiny reflection of the giving of the greatest gift ever, the person of Jesus Christ, who humbly entered our world as a vulnerable baby. He grew and poured out his life for us that we may have life. It is hard to imagine any greater mystery of how a God of the universe, the whole cosmos, would be willing to put on flesh and live amongst humanity in a hostile world. An even greater mystery is that he did it with such grace and truth. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). I am personally grateful we are invited to his throne of grace enabling us to abide in him, in a loving relationship with this glorious God of grace who came to dwell among us, to be with us, in us, and for us.
Michael Rasmussen, North America and Caribbean
Why would Jesus give up his position at the Father’s right hand to come to Earth? He was and is sovereign and knows all things. Therefore, he knew what it was going to mean to put on flesh and what it would mean to submit himself to this human life and all its corruption. He knew the cost of our sins and what this would require on his behalf. He knew he would be betrayed, rejected and one of his closest friends would deny he even knew him. He knew he would find no truth and no justice in the world he created. He knew he would be beaten beyond recognition, then abandoned on the cross to slowly die one of the worst deaths possible.
Why? Because his love compelled him, it drove him to the most loving act possible. He did it for you, he did it for me and for every human being who has ever lived or ever will live. I thank God every day for his love, for his perfect plan, and for being willing to trade his life for mine. I am so unworthy, but I am eternally grateful for his unconditional love and his perfect life.
As we enter the Advent and Christmas Season, let us never forget how his love conquers ALL and forever changes everything!