By Rick Booye
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The gospel is astounding. The God of the universe has become and remains human. The incarnation is the most earth-shaking event ever to rock our world. And it is news rather than simply spiritual advice. It is news of something that God has done in time and space with infinitely far-reaching consequences. It is not a sentimental myth to help us deal with the harshness of a life we don’t understand. It really happened. God has become one of us, entered his own creation and redeemed it.
Can this be, though? I mean, really. Life on earth is so, well, earthy. It’s one thing to think of God acting human for a while on a Sunday morning when everybody in church has showered and clothed themselves and is presentable for an hour or so. It is quite another to know that his teenage mother changed his diapers and nursed and bathed him and had him circumcised. We can well imagine him talking, even as a kid, with the priests in the temple. But how about needing a rest stop on the long trail to Samaria? Frankly, we just don’t connect with his total humanity. Yet it was precisely this that the apostles insisted on. For instance, in 2 John verse 7 the apostle says, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not believe that Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is a deceiver and the antichrist!” Evidently there were “spiritual teachers” in the first generation of Christians who were already denying Christ’s real humanity. John would have none of it. He knew that the Lord’s humanity enables our life today, right now, to be totally spiritual and totally material at the same time, just like His.
Note for instance that being an embodied soul, a material human, is not in itself sinful. In our unredeemed state all of us except Christ do have sin. Don’t miss this. But sin is not innate to humanity’s creation as humanity. Sin is a disease of the will found in our minds, hearts, souls and bodies, a condition we have inherited and freely chosen. It is killing us and we are helpless (apart from God’s grace in Christ) to stop it. But it is not part of the original creation. We brought it on ourselves. This means that if a person were to somehow escape the dominion of sin, they could theoretically completely please God and walk with him, in one of these bodies, here and now. This is exactly what Jesus did. And He did it for us.
Remember too that materiality is not itself evil as the Greeks believed. Enjoying physical life is a virtue. Jesus was not a monk. In his first miracle he made wine for a hapless groom who hadn’t planned enough refreshments for his guests. And the Lord made really good wine according to the reception coordinator. What’s that about? Hasn’t God got better things to do than bail out a poorly planned party? One would think so, if we discount the material world. But he doesn’t discount the world—he redeems it. This miracle is about God entering into a feast of physical joy, promising that some day there would be a bigger and better feast in his kingdom, a feast where he will be the groom and we will all share his wine. It is good to be a human in the New Covenant. The Lord has redeemed all the stress, mess, pain, joy and experience of life on earth. If God is not embarrassed to be a human, why should we be?
But what about our sin? We know how graphic our personal evil is. Again, the Lord’s earthly life is the answer. His human life and death, lived in complete purity and obedience in this physical world, was credited to our life-account when we trusted Him. When you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit entered your soul and joined you with God metaphysically. This real unity with Christ means that all his experiences are now yours and yours are now his. In him you died on the cross and came back to life. And his tangible human goodness is now yours, too. The perfect life he lived is your perfect life before God. That in turn means that in Christ you are secure, loved, justified and destined to share his glory into eternity.
So we should meditate long on the good news of the Lord’s authentic human life. It will keep us from the muddy mysticism that rejects the creation, the religious austerity that denies physical enjoyment, and the Pharisaic guilt that relies on our own works to secure our relationship with God. What a free and good life we can now live!