What does the incarnation mean to you? Why is it a big deal?
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) is a beautiful truth we remember at Christmas as we reflect on the Incarnation - God becoming flesh... Emmanuel, God with us. We rightly marvel at the love, grace, and humility of Jesus setting aside his rights as God to take on human flesh; refusing to exploit his divinity to experience all we do; and walking with obedient submission the Father's path that led to the cross.
But what about you and me? How do we live an incarnational life? How do we let the Word become flesh in us?
John Wesley suggests, at the very least, we need to come to God's Word and
To read...with a single eye, to know the whole will of God,...[with] a fixed resolution to do it...Whatever light you then receive should be used to the uttermost, and that immediately. Let there be no delay. Whatever you resolve, begin to execute the first moment you can. (Works of John Wesley, 3rd ed., 14:253)
What Wesley describes, and what we need, is for the Word to become flesh in us. We need to read God's Word in such a way that it isn't more information but that it transforms us to live differently. We need to be doers of God's Word, not hearers only.
Read: Luke 2:1-20
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with
whom he is pleased!"
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Perhaps no one exemplifies the Word becoming flesh in them in the Christmas story better than the shepherds. God chose them, despite their low standing as the dregs of society, to be the first ones to hear the "good news of great joy" that Jesus was born.
They listened. Shepherds spend a lot of time sitting around. I imagine they got bored pretty easily. Sitting outside with their flocks, watching the stars in the sky, they had plenty of time on their hands. When the angels appeared, they paid attention. I doubt they expected God to speak to them or for angels to appear, but when they did, they took notice.
How many people lived nearby and didn't? How many heard a commotion but were in bed and didn't want to get up to look and see what the noise was? Maybe no one, but such a huge angel army had to make noise and bright light...surely someone was roused from sleep, rolled over, and ignored it!
Not the shepherds. I think God chose them, in part, because he knew they would listen. But even more:
They responded. When the angels left, they didn't sit around talking about what they should do. The didn't go to sleep with good intentions of doing something about it later. We read that they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby. They believed the message and they obeyed. The angels had said they would find a baby - as crazy as it must have sounded - lying in a feeding trough - so they went and looked! They found Jesus!
Then, after seeing the baby, they spread the news. They told others! They repeated to anyone who would listen what they had seen and heard! And then they went back to work glorifying God. They lived Wesley's challenge. What they received they used - to the uttermost - without delay! The Word of God given to them through the angels became flesh in them!
Take time to read the Christmas story in Matthew 1 and 2 and Luke 1 and 2. Take time to reflect on the lives of Joseph, Mary, the Magi, or the shepherds.
What do you notice about their willingness to listen and respond?
Contrast them to Zechariah or Herod or the religious leaders of the day.
How do you do at listening? Responding?
What is Jesus inviting you into through this passage?
How can you create space so the Word becomes flesh in you?