The popular theologian C. S. Lewis wrote of the incarnation in his book called Miracles: “They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . in the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.” Lewis goes on to paint the picture of a deep sea diver who descends in the blackness in order to recover a valuable treasure. The pressure weighs on the diver and, in the midst of the darkness, he (like all things around him) loses his color. But through the struggle he eventually resurfaces, that precious item in his hand, to the world of color and beauty once more. Here we have a word picture describing the deep love of God for humanity – a God who would enter the world of pain, loss, suffering, hardship, and “colorlessness,” motivated by love for what he has created.
In the prologue to the gospel of John, the apostle summarizes this miracle: “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). Eugene Peterson paraphrases this to say that the Word “moved into the neighborhood.” What is implied here is that Jesus is the self-expression of God, God revealed in a real human life. God, who had revealed himself to the world in many ways before the coming of Christ, revealed himself perfectly then by being embodied in a particular man, and there was nothing deceptive, unreal, or phony about Jesus’ humanity: he was born, he grew up through childhood to manhood, and he died. And as it was, by the word of the Lord that the universe was created, so Jesus is the divinely appointed agent for bringing the new creation into being, first in human life and then on a universal scale. Undoubtedly, some who have grown up in the church and heard sermons on the incarnation all of their lives will allow this idea to grow stale in their minds. I confess that has happened to me before. But each of us, when we look deep down inside, longs for a God who can sit across from us and share in our everyday experiences. We deeply desire the intimacy of friendship with our Maker.
To think of God in such gritty, earthy, human terms seems to demean His holiness, but evidently the God of the Bible doesn’t agree. Instead we find in Jesus a man who was constantly criticized for his habit of hanging out with what society considered to be losers. Remember the Pharisees who said: “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is– that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). Remarkably, we find Jesus “infecting” others with his healing and wholeness rather than being “infected” by their filth and sin. Jesus reversed how the Jews thought of defilement: the holy doesn’t become dirty by contact with what is unclean; rather the unclean becomes whole and well through contact with the holy! Sadly, even many Christians today seem to misunderstand this aspect of Jesus’ ministry and, as a result, they seek holiness by barricading themselves from the “wicked” and “evildoers.” Much of evangelicalism over the decades has devoted itself to creating a “bubble” which is separate from the world for fear of contamination – note, for example, the growth of “Christian” bookstores, businesses, schools, music, etc. – all attempts to create a sub-culture which will shield ourselves from the contamination of the world.
Pastor Greg Boyd reflects on how the incarnation of Christ impacts those who are poor or hurting: “My experience regarding street-level understandings of God is that the more marginalized and less organized the people are, the more the people will have internalized the dominant ideology of the official transcript. Many have not heard an alternative voice expressing good news that was convincing enough to win them over to a God on their side.” And, indeed, the fundamental message of the incarnation is that God is on our side, suffering with us and striving to show us a way of life we’ve never imagined before. This realization is revolutionary not just for the economically poor, but for all people.
[excerpt taken from “Merge: Divine Chaos” by Jeremy Summers and Greg Coates]