As we approach yet another Advent and Christmas season, I wanted to write a series of posts to look at the birth of Jesus. I am convinced that there can never be enough pondering, thinking, meditating, and talking about the Son of God taking on flesh and being born into the world. Theologians call this event the Incarnation. My heart is to write short posts that aid in your meditation and keep your heart focused as the weeks progress. This series will be by no means comprehensive, but I do want to help you to gasp with fresh amazement and bring you into feeling the weight of the most extraordinary act any man has ever witnessed – God taking on flesh and being born into the world.
Around 5BC in an obscure town named Bethlehem in Judea, a young, scared, and tired Jewish girl struggled in pain to give birth to a little boy in a dark cave. Undoubtedly the visit from the angel Gabriel was deeply engrained into her memory though lost in the overwhelming circumstances of the moment. Joseph knew that her betrothed wife had been “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit. More than nine months passed since that moment, and her Baby was being born under scandalous and trying circumstances in the oppressive regime of the Romans. Though the circumstances were challenging, the Child’s birth was not so unordinary to the creature. Yet it was in this framework that the Creator had entered into His creation as a human being.
There is no greater mystery or miracle that we can ponder than the Incarnation. In the early church, the birth of Jesus was celebrated and pondered for much longer than 21st century Westerners are used to. Instead of wreaths, lights, trees, shopping lists, and gift-giving, awestruck gratitude and tenderness filled the lives of the early church during the season of remembrance of His birth. It was written that St. Francis of Assisi, a believer who lived in the 12th century, could not even say the name “Bethlehem” at times without stammering with emotion. How familiar have we become with this story such that the yearning heart of St. Francis is not ours?
CS Lewis summarizes the miracle of the Incarnation well:
"The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.... Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.... It was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about."
Because my own heart response in pondering the incarnation is not even close to that of St. Francis or the apostles, I decided to give myself to reflection and study of the most important moment in history thus far. For the next several weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll be posting overflows of my heart on various points of the incarnation that are vital to consider for the Christian. I don’t intend to offer sterile theological musings in my posts. A mental understanding of what “the whole story has been about” will not evoke a response of the heart in love unless we dialogue with Him about it. I want my heart and yours to stagger in wonder, burn with gratitude, and ache with longing for His return. May the Lord grant both the writer and the reader the grace to behold Him in His humanity!