The Incarnation and Christmas

John 1:14 reads, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

The Word became flesh and lived among us. This is the Christmas story and the expectation of the Advent season. Our focus is typically fixed upon the Savior coming to die for our sins. But there is so much more to Christmas than simply this. It is God becoming one with humans. God encapsulating himself within flesh and bones. God becoming man, like his creation that he concocted in his own mind. This is monumental if anything. God becomes human. God makes himself vulnerable – people can accept or reject Jesus. They can love or kill Jesus. God is jumping off a cliff and hoping like hell that humans will be there to catch him. Jesus surrendered his rights of divinity for humans. A submission to people who do not deserve it. Putting aside any privileges for the sake of others. Frederick Buechner writes,

“What is new about the New Covenant, therefore, is not the idea that God loves the world enough to bleed for it but the claim that here he is actually putting his money where his mouth is. Like a father saying about his sick child, ‘I’d do anything to make you well,’ God finally calls his own bluff and does it.”

This theme of becoming one is nothing new. It actually starts all the way back in the Garden. There is the man and the woman and the man says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Then the bible reads, “Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they became one flesh” (emphasis mine). Not only do I think the language here foreshadows the coming of Christ (becoming flesh and bones; God covering himself in the dust that was his medium for creating humans) but more importantly, we see that things are supposed to be one. Too often, we have viewed marriages as finding fulfillment in another person and use cliche statements like, “You complete me,” and “You make me whole,” which if anything is a false assumption of what relationships are meant to be. In the Garden, we see that the man is lonely and God wants to find for him a suitable partner or a helper. Someone to walk alongside the man. Somebody to share life with the man. Somebody to help the man become one with God.

Relationships are the entrance into a journey to become one with God and one with creation. To be fully reconciled to all. To have the heartbeat of God. To have the eyes of God. To have the ears of God. And the hands of God. And the feet of God. Relationships are a picture of what it means for God to become one with us as humans.

This idea of oneness is not foreign in the bible. The Shema, the calling card of the Israelites (much like John 3:16 or The Great Commission is to evangelicals), says, “Hear O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” And then in Jesus’ prayer in John 17, he asks God “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Then all throughout the Pauline literature, we hear a call for unity, of holding together the mind of Christ (quite ironic considering Paul’s writings are often the center of controversy within churches today). And then finally, in Revelation, we see the picture of the new heavens and the new earth, and God dwelling among mortals and mortals with the heavenly beings. This is the biblical story: becoming one with God.

Rob Bell likes to say that this is always about that. This is true when it comes to our relationships. When a man and woman are married, it is a reflection of something divine that extends far beyond two people exchanging vows. It is two people choosing to become one. Of making themselves vulnerable. Of sacrificing their rights. Of submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. This is why when marriages don’t work out, that we ache so badly for both parties. We can feel their hurt – none of us want to be rejected but beyond this, it reminds us of the brokenness in the world and our separated state from God. But then there’s the other side of the coin. A few years ago, I was having dinner with an older couple that had been married for something like 60 years. During the entirety of dinner, the told stories and laughed and joked with one another like they were twenty years old and young and restless. It was beautiful. I remember tearing up when I left; it was so moving to see two people still be in love after having lived together that long. They still enjoyed one another’s stories and jokes even though they probably had heard them many times before. It was a portrait of two becoming one. If only for a brief moment, all things seemed right to me. Marriages that last show us a speck of the marriage of Christ to his bride the church.

Relationships aren’t about satisfying our desires and cravings. They aren’t about always getting what we want. They aren’t by any means easy. They take work and they can get messy . . . very messy. But relationships help us enter into the oneness of God. The oneness where all things are reconciled and restored to one another. The state of being in perfect harmony with God.

Often, especially in Christian circles, we here about finding ‘The One’ for us, the perfect being that will somehow make us whole. Rather, I think we should be looking for a person that will walk alongside us into this oneness and the recognition that without this person, we would be farther away from this harmony than if we were with them.

This is the Christmas story. The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. God becoming one with us. The divine being wed together with humans in harmony.

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