What do you think about as Christmas approaches? Do you anticipate the gifts you’ve been hoping for—all neatly wrapped under a shiny tree? Maybe you’re excited about time off work and the gathering of family members.
For many of us, it’s the more spiritual traditions that excite us the most: Christmas carols in church, nativity scenes in the neighborhood, and the gospel narratives chronicling the birth of Christ. Christmas certainly should be about celebrating the miracle of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. But our theology of the incarnation needs to go beyond what we learn from the birth scene in Bethlehem.
When the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ are over, it doesn’t mark the end of the discussion. As you get into the epistles of the New Testament, you find the writers often go back to show the divine perspective. They don’t talk about angels. They don’t talk about shepherds. They don’t talk about wise men. They don’t talk about Joseph. They don’t even talk about Mary. They don’t talk about Bethlehem. They don’t talk about a stable. They don’t talk about a manger or a feed trough. They don’t talk about animals. They don’t talk about a star. They don’t talk about Herod. They don’t talk about the slaughter of the innocents. When the epistles look back to the birth of Jesus Christ, all they ever talk about is Jesus Christ.
The gospel accounts of Christ’s birth certainly provide important information. But it is in the epistles where we learn about Christ’s eternal origins. They reveal what Jesus accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection. And they display Christ’s triumphant superiority over everything else in the universe. It is after the gospels that we gain the fullest understanding of Christ’s incarnation.
“The Nature of the Incarnation, Part 1” explores one of the most profound passages from an epistle concerning the arrival of Jesus in human form.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. (Hebrews 1:1–3)
John’s sermon focuses on that divine perspective of the incarnation. He works through the text to reveal the preparation of Christ prior to His taking on flesh and blood, the presentation of Christ to the world He created, and the preeminence of Christ over all that He has created.
If we are to properly understand Christmas, we need to comprehend the incarnation from God’s perspective. We need to grasp His sovereign purposes in entering humanity. To that end, John’s message unveils the heavenly side of the Christmas story. Moreover, it arms us with a bigger story to share and proclaim this time of year.