culture

The Incarnation: Hope for A Weary World

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The holiday season, framed by Black Friday and After Christmas Sales, is fraught with stress and tension that comes from all sorts of directions like overwork, family dysfunction, health problems and money woes.

On top of our own problems, the world’s trauma from across the globe floods our screens all day long. We see citizens reeling from unexplained tragedies, survivors mourning their losses after floods and fire, and anxious and fearful refugees fleeing countries to unknown, and often unwelcoming, places.

These never-ending events numb our senses; no wonder we get lost on the rolling sea of indulgence and consumerism.

I will be the first to admit that I was tempted to lose the tree and the decorations, the presents and the cards, the cookies and the mistletoe for something much less commercial and contrived.

Yet, I began to notice glimmers of the Incarnation skirting the edges of the holiday madness and infusing the air with hope. “Christ the Savior is Born!” declares the plastic sign planted on the side of the freeway. Familiar melodies fill my Facebook feed: “Mary did you know your baby child would someday walk on water?” A tinny version of “O Holy Night” floats from above as I fill my car with gas.

Long ago Isaiah strained to understand what I was tempted to take for granted when he prophesied about the coming King:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Through the prophet, God provided a forecast of hope, a glimpse of his redemptive plan that pulsates across salvation history.

Then, centuries later, Luke included in his narrative the miraculous and mysterious events surrounding the mundane, utterly normal, yet all-together glorious birth of Jesus,

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 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, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:8-14).

Little did Luke know that these words, written to a first-century audience, would still bring hope and awaken faith over two thousand years later. We, too, take comfort in something magnificent and inexplicable, the Incarnation.

So, as pastors, leaders, and servants of God, what should we do with the Incarnation this Christmas?

First, let us boldly preach the good news of the gospel wrapped in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Thomas Torrance reflects on this amazing truth:

We stand before God as flesh of sin under God’s judgement [sic], and it is into this concrete form of the sin-laden, corruptible and mortal humanity in which we are damned and lost that Christ came, without ceasing to be the holy Son of God. He entered into complete solidarity with us in our sinful existence in order to save us, without becoming himself a sinner.[1]

Consumerist culture promises high and delivers low.

Second, let us remember that today’s consumerist culture promises high and delivers low. For many, true and lasting hope eludes their desperate grasp. Remind them that Christmas is all about Jesus Christ born in a manger, who would die on a cross and now lives exalted in heaven as the Lord and King. In him we find sure and steadfast hope. He alone is an anchor for the troubled soul.

Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:6-11).

Third, let us not forget that the secular narrative touts relativism, which ultimately leads to fear and uncertainty. As believers, we have the privilege of countering these claims with the assurance of God’s love and redemption and presence. Let us courageously, and compassionately, broadcast the name of Jesus Christ.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)

Yes, stress, tension and suffering surround us this Christmas. But to this weary world, Jesus offers hope.

A version of this article originally published in December 2015.

[1] Thomas Torrence, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2008), 62.

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Cas Monaco

As a missiologist Cas Monaco stands at the intersection of gospel and culture and encourages others to join in gospel conversation along the way. As staff member at Cru, Cas joins a network of leaders who are engaging in conversations in cities across the globe. As a follower of Jesus, wife, ponderer, adventurer and friend, she finds her bearings in The True Story of the Whole World. Blog: casmonaco.com

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