The four weeks of advent are traditionally broken up into two halves. The first two weeks, we look forward to Christ’s second coming and the second two weeks we remember his first coming. Let’s talk about remembering Christ’s first coming, let’s talk about having a merry Christmas.
The best book I’ve read about God taking on flesh is called Incarnation by Thomas Torrence. In a few sentences Torrence brought me face to face with the wonder of Christmas. Torrence writes;
“If the first creation was the creation of man in the image of God, the recreation is through an act in which God condescends to take on the image of man.”
There is a wonder in this parallel between creation and incarnation. Of course the latter isn’t possible without the former, and it is both considered together that reveals the unsearchable depths of love within the heart of God towards his sinful creatures.
Remember the beginning? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). All of existence was formulated not from any prior material, or into any preexistent container, but only from the mind of God. It is created ex nihilo, from nothing. That is of course, from nothing else than the creative action of God. The Bible starts with an answer to that most central of questions, “why is there something rather than nothing?” And the answer is that God made it so.
We are not incidental, but designed. The container of space and time that we inhabit conforms perfectly to our being, the one made for the other. We look out with eyes which interpret a visible world, and grasp with hands that touch a world full of physical objects. There is nothing we can experience which doesn’t shout back at us the handiwork of our creator.
This all came from the mind of God. Spoken into existence by the word of his power. Not because he lacked something that he needed to make exist. But from the fullness of his joy he sought to express himself to others. It is an appropriate view of things to say he loved this world into existence. And he continues loving it, why else would he paint the sky a different color every night?
Humans are those creatures he placed at the helm of this ship of wonders, and it is humans who thought to steer towards the glory of ourselves and away from the glory of God. The space we inhabit now becomes the source of our battle against one another, as lines are drawn and we fight over dirt. The time in which we are contained used to count only upward logging each moment of joy, but now counts only downward as we move closer to death with each breath. The treasonous crew turns toward despair. On the open sea, in the dark, you can’t get your bearings by plumbing the depths of your own thoughts.
And here enters the wonder of the incarnation. God who made the world, who designed it’s creatures, does not meet treason with destruction but with salvation. Those to whom he gave his own image, desecrated that image. God in turn took on our image not to desecrate us, but to save. Once we’ve looked deeply at the Creation we can begin to see the absurd wonder of the incarnation.
Those to whom he gave his own image, desecrated that image. God in turn took on our image not to desecrate us, but to save.
The timeless one took on time. The infinite took on finitude. The omnipresent took on flesh. The omnipotent took on helplessness. The omniscient took on learning. The glorious one took on dirt. The king took on a manger. Torrence continues:
“The whole movement of redemption adumbrated from the start is a movement of God coming to man in order to restore man to God, of God taking man’s place in order to give man God’s place – the principle of substitution and the principle of incarnation.”
Let us take this as permission to not stop at meditating just upon the incarnation but upon the purpose of the incarnation. God was born so that he would die. The Holy One was made to be sin. As Torrence noted above, the incarnation is inseparable from substitution. He became a man to die, so that we would not die but have eternal life.
Don’t you see the heart of God on display in the incarnation? This world that he loved into existence stopped loving him. But he didn’t stop loving it. The creator became creature so that we might dwell eternally with our creator. So that in his birth we might be born again, so that in his creation we might be made new. So that the time we’re trapped in might start counting upwards again marking the expanse of an eternity in his presence.
Merry Christmas. What a merry Christmas.
PS. Join us at Redemption Church Denver for one of our New Year’s Eve services at 3pm or 4:30pm at 4345 W 46th st. Denver, CO.