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The Incarnation

I found this book on our shelf tonight and decided to start reading it. It's called Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, published by Crossway. There are several short sections by various authors that can be read each day to prepare for Christmas. I haven't read very much of it, but based on what I have read, I'd definitely recommend it.  

The following quote is from today's reading by J.I. Packer; it's a little long, but really good. 
How are we to think of the incarnation: The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. "He, Who had always been God by nature," writes Paul, "did not cling to His prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal" (Phil. 2:6, PHILLIPS). And all this was for our salvation. 
The key text in the New Testament for interpreting the incarnation is not, therefore, the bare statement in John 1:14, "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us," but rather the more comprehensive statement of 2 Corinthians 8:9, "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." Here is stated, not the fact of the incarnation only, but also its meaning; the taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way that shows us how we should set it before ourselves and ever view it- not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace. 
For the Son of God to empty himself and become poor meant a laying aside of glory; a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice, and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony- spiritual, even more than physical- that his mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely men, who "through his poverty, might become rich." This Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity- hope for pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory- because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear. 
We talk glibly of the "Christmas spirit," rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round. 

1 comment:

Rachel Jones said...

I have this book from last year and haven't read it yet - thanks for the reminder. I also ordered some for Christmas gifts :)