2. Why Did God Become a Man?
So this God has chosen to take on flesh and dwell amongst us (see last post). He could have stayed in Heaven on His sapphire throne with cherubim and seraphim surrounding him with their continuous cry, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and Earth are full of thy glory!” “All the heavens cannot hold Him!” The train of His robe fills the Temple! He is Light! He is utterly perfect, which means that there is nothing He lacks and that He fulfils His role in the universe without fail, blemish, or fault. This perfect being, the One Who thought up butterflies and cheese, chose to enflesh Himself and pitch His tent among us.
And He chose to do so, coming as a baby.
He came because of love. His creation had fallen. We human beings, created in the very image of God, had fallen into sin and death. All that awaited us was annihilation. We were destined to death, to corruption due to our fall. Without God’s redemptive action, we were destined for an end the Bible calls various things: death, a place of outer darkness where there is moaning and gnashing of teeth, the second death, spiritual death, the lake of fire, Hades, Sheol, the pit, the grave. However, we weren’t really made for that. We were made to dwell with our Creator forever. And He took great pity upon us and sought to remake us after His own Image. He alone could do this, however. The law could not do this, nor the prophets, nor the revelation of His character in nature. Only He alone could recreate humanity into what we were meant to be.
In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image. The Image of the Father only was sufficient for this need. (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation)
Part of the mystery of the Incarnation, then, is that God loved us sinners enough to make Himself human. It’s not simply that the Creator made Himself into a man. Some point out that He can do anything. In fact, some of the Church Fathers say that Jesus was ordering the universe the whole time He was on earth—that, as perfect God, He never ceased performing the full function of the Almighty. I’m not sure I believe that, myself, but it’s an intriguing thought. Nonetheless, Almighty God took on flesh because He loves us! He became man for our sake.
O Come, let us adore Him!!
We see this aspect of Christ’s incarnation, in fact, in some of tonight’s passages (Christmas 1, Year 1, BCP Evensong).
Ps. 130:8: He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
Jer. 31:1-6: 1 “At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people.” 2 This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert will come to give rest to Israel.” 3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. 4 I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. 5 Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. 6 There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’ “
3. Our Response
What is our response? First, worship. Second, worship. Third, worship. And while we worship, we should take the words of Jesus seriously and live by them in faith. The sort of faith is found in the second lesson from tonight. In Matt. 18:3-4, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
As we live worshipping Jesus and putting our whole faith in Him, certain attitudes will inevitably be adopted. St. Paul puts it eloquently in Philippians 2:
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
We should give of ourselves as God Himself has. God, the, the Creator of all that was, is, and shall be, is Jesus. God Who revealed Himself to us in the Old Testament and acted in real ways in history, is Jesus. God is Jesus. How can we not worship Him and get caught up in the glory that He came to earth to save us from our sins? And so, reflecting on this mystery, we are spurred on to live righteous lives, lives of humility, lives lived for others, lives that seek to help the poor, lives that seek to help other people find the joy of life with Christ, lives that relieve the needs of those around them. J.I. Packer writes:
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 ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round. (Knowing God, p. 70)