At Christmas we reflect on what God had to do to bring about our salvation – something so radical we would never have thought of it, and so radical that we have a job to get our heads around it – become human! As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, Jesus had to be made “like us in every way,” (Heb. 2:17), and Paul writes, he took on “flesh like ours under sin’s domain.” (Romans 8:3 HCSB).
The hymn writer Charles Wesley expressed it, “God contracted to a span incomprehensibly made man.”
God in flesh, a foreign thought indeed, but as John writes this is the heart of the Christian message for “Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (1John 4:2,3)
Jesus was no phantom, and no human becoming God… Jesus was truly literal God in man with man residing – “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 HCSB).
Yet how frequently the church has wanted to distance Jesus from this stuff – the Roman Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception is an example, and evangelicals have their own ways too.
The incarnation is as important to our salvation as the death and resurrection of Jesus. To put it another way, Jesus could not have been parachuted in to die for us. He had to be born in this stuff, “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law,” (Gal. 4:4).
As Gregory Nazianzen (one of the old church fathers) said many years ago, “The unassumed is the unredeemed.” Jesus had to assume it all in order to redeem it all and offer it back to God.
Glorious mystery, wonderful Saviour, so great a salvation!