At various times in history God revealed His character and nature to the Israelites through His different names; Jehovah Rophi- God the Healer; Jehovah Jirah – God the Provider and so on… It wasn’t that God suddenly became a healer but that He revealed a certain aspect of His nature- something He already was. God sent Prophets and Angels to bring these revelations but when the fullness of time came God revealed Himself as Emmanuel – God is with us!
God didn’t change His name for the incarnation – He has always been with us and had never left! BUT with the incarnation we see God confronting humanity with this Good News and something of the nature of humanity changing.
The Incarnation is the ultimate manifestation of God’s message to humanity. His Words made flesh. So what is the message? “I am with you and my Kingdom is at Hand”. The message was clear – The King has arrived with the whole Kingdom! God couldn’t have made it easier for us to understand.
With the Incarnation God took everything to a whole new realm. He ushered in a whole New Era. I love how the book of John starts:
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…
…14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us…
Jesus is shown to be the creator and sustainer of the very fabric of Life itself (Hebrews 1.3, Colossians 1.17 also says this) and so God has always been caught up in the running of creation (The idea that God created the world and then left it to run on its own is called Deism, is heresy and is not a Christian idea found within scripture.) He ‘tabernackled’ with us through the Tent of Meeting.
But something significant happened through the Incarnation which meant God no longer ‘Tabernacled’ with us in a tent made of animal flesh but the very flesh of humanity itself! (…today it’s your flesh)
The incarnation affected the fabric of the universe in that when Christ was birthed on to the earth as a man something happened to the very nature of humanity and the creation which God was sustaining. God invaded our world in a new and physical way and became flesh. The fullness of the Godhead was crammed into the human nature itself (Col 2.9)!! Humanity’s DNA and the fabric of the universe was reconfigured and injected with New Life. C.S. Lewis described it as being a ‘whole new chapter in Cosmic History’.
John 1 continues …12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God…
And as early church Father St. Athanasius famously wrote “God became man that man might become God,” (His book On the Incarnation has a lot of whack on it). Through the Incarnation then we see humanity’s very nature being injected with Divine DNA. You are Born of God! There’s a lot of whack on that!
A new foundation for the supernatural
The Incarnation reforms our understanding of the miraculous and supernatural. It creates a new foundation for us to experience it. C. S. Lewis says ‘the central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, exhibits this or results from this.’
Every experience of the supernatural must reflect what happened through the Incarnation.
The incarnation also re-balances how we view the natural and ‘supernatural worlds’. It’s funny how we can try really hard to be supernatural and yet God stepped into our natural world! He became human! Any separation we thought there was between these two worlds is now made redundant but also we have to learn that God values the natural world!! The natural world is as important as the ‘supernatural world’!!!
A great friend of mine, Karen Lowe, was once talking about the fact that she was woken in the night by giant angels standing in her room but went on to say that the highlight of her week was actually the fact her hamsters had given birth to babies! It wasn’t that she didn’t value the angelic or that it wasn’t a powerful experience. The two things were quite different – yes but of equal value and guess what?! One was not more holy than the other…!! God values them both! (And before anyone goes out to buy hamsters to be more ‘holy’ the point is that God loves the things you love – go and get a Starbucks and chill out, God loves that too.)
There’s so much wisdom in being able to connect with the Supernatural while at the same time being able to see God’s Glory shine through everyday events.
The Incarnation story is shot through with the miraculous and supernatural and yet the point of the story is that God became man. Within the Incarnation we are shown the marrying of the supernatural and natural; the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man. We have the Union of two worlds, brought together in the birth of one baby. It is a story so down to earth it happened in a normal place and witnessed by ordinary shepherds and yet was baptised in the mystical.
A new foundation for ‘revival’
Isn’t it funny in revival circles we pray for the visitation of God and yet The Incarnation is the Visitation! How does revival fit into that then?
Mary has an angelic visitation and yet the message the angel brings is all about a God who is with us! For me now ‘visitation’ is all about realising whats already here. God has already invaded earth. The Kingdom of God is already Present. It’s all around us! The Celtic Saints would see that the world harbors the Glory of God.
Allow your every day to be baptised in the mystical but in the revelation of who already came. We are not going to get away from things like angels because the Gospel brings the revelation that the Kingdom of God is at Hand. BUT the point of the incarnation was not Gabriel. God did not come to tell us that Gabriel is with us! We must get our focus sorted – the whole universe peeked over the corner of a tiny crib to see the one who would open a new chapter in Cosmic History. Why would you want to be distracted by anything else?
The Incarnation: Understanding what God is really like
Remember how the book of John starts: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning…
Isn’t it amazing that the Word goes back to the beginning of creation? Jesus says throughout the book of Revelation (Rev 1,21,22) that He is the Alpha and Omega – the First and Last. Jesus has the First and Last say. Back in the garden we see humanity hiding in its shame and yet God comes looking for him speaking the Words “Where are you?” (Gen 3.9)
And from Adam down the ages humanity has tried to keep hidden in its shame and yet God keeps searching us out! He plucks out Abraham, then Moses and the David- all with the same intent – to reveal His Glory; His Goodness to humanity. His Words are always “I want to show you how Good I really am!” Throughout the Old Testament we find humanity trying to understand what God is really like and trying to grasp His Glory. And then we come to Jesus:
14 and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.
And in verse 18 we see that Jesus revealed the very heart of the Father, ‘and brought Him out to where He could be seen so that He could be known.’
Jesus didn’t come to appease an angry God- He came to reveal the heart of a forgiving one- full of grace and loving-kindness. There is no difference of attitude between the Father and the Son. Remember John 14.9 – ‘If you have seen me you have seen the Father…’ The Son actually reveals the heart of the Father. So the First Words spoken in the Garden of Eden are Finished with the Last Words spoken on the cross by The Word made Flesh “Father Forgive Them!” And isn’t it interesting that the forgiveness spoken by Jesus is before any repentance done by humanity…? Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last – His mission was the same from start to finish. What started through the Incarnation was ultimately displayed on the cross- the heart of a loving God – full of Forgiveness, overflowing with Grace, saturated with Loving Kindness and bringing reconciliation.