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December 3rd, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Bound to us Forever – Incarnation III

Today I finish the brief introduction into the Christian mystery of “incarnation,” the “enfleshment” of God in the form and full reality of a human person.

The significance of the incarnation is simply mind boggling. In the “Word Made Flesh” The Creator God has forever bound Himself to humankind. In doing so he said yet again that His creation is good, no, not just good, but very good. He has come after us with such abandon that he has even become one of us. He is “with us” – “God with us” – Emmanuel. In coming in the form of human flesh He has shown us in the most vivid manner possible what He himself is like, and at the same time what we were and are created and called to be like.

And he came to take upon Himself not only our nature, but our sin as well – Israel’s sin and our sin (Gentiles like me) too – to bear it for us and in our place, to achieve victory over the enemies of sin and death and the devil. And he has revealed to us the path that we are to trod as we follow after Him – the path of humble service and self emptying love which seeks the good of the beloved. With this same self-emptying love we are to set aside our supposed rights and privileges and give of ourselves in love of others. 

The Christian belief and confession is that Jesus has been raised from the dead and He sits now bodily at the right hand of the Father. God has thus committed himself for all time to physical reality and physical humanity. Jesus is forever “enfleshed” as a human being. And God continues to dwell with his people, now by His Spirit, sent from the Father and Son. We, the people of God, the body of Christ, are to be the dwelling place of God in the earth. In and through us the presence of God is to be “incarnate” or fleshed out in the world, in very particular places and particular times – like in this place in this time.

So much of our understanding of what it means to be the people of God and what it means to be the Church derives from Jesus’ own pattern given to us as our example. He came and took upon human flesh in order to serve, not in order to be served. He came to a particular people at a particular place and at a particular time, humbly, not despising the limitations of such an appearing. That he would be “enfleshed” within the bounds of a particular time and place reminds us that our calling in our little patch of this world has real significance as well. We are called to be like him in our present, in our place, in and through the realities and limitations of real bodily existence. 

In the providence of God this now is our place and our time. We are called here to serve, not only one another but our neighbors and our communities and families and extended families, and to “incarnate” the very presence of God in these places. Yes, that goes for the likes of limited and fallible and frail and sinful folk like us, just the sorts of folks whom Jesus used to turn the world upside down. The calling could not be higher, it could not be more challenging, and it could not be more exciting, if we can see it, and claim it.

Sincerely in Christ,

Joel

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