I have been writing for advent this month. We are getting down to the wire and I have 2 posts left, can I make it? Only time will tell.
(If you have missed the other posts, it is some of the okayest writing I’ve done… and you can read them here)
Today’s topic on our advent journey is “down”. Quoting from the nicene creed,
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human.
Creeds were developed by the early church prior to the canonization of the bible. The reason for their development was typically in response to some heresy that had taken foot in the church, and without scripture to direct them, they needed a short form to establish orthodox beliefs. This particular creed came about from the Council of Nicea in AD 325, which was defending the truth of the person of Christ and the trinity as a whole.
“one Lord Jesus Christ”
“the only son”
“begotten, not made“
and (among many other truths)
“he came down from Heaven, he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human“
Christ’s incarnation is not exclusive to God coming down in the scripture. We actually see in several places God revealing himself to people.
And this is just the first 2 books of the bible. The old testament has several examples of Theophanies (God the Father appearing to man) and Christophanies (God the son, Jesus, appearing to man).
Another example of God revealing himself to man happens as a vision in Isaiah 6:
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Alright, so if you have made it here, thank you for sticking through the case building, all of this to basically say, God showed up, lots. He is not a deistic God that is disinterested in His creation. He loves, He cares, He is able and available to us for our needs.
But what makes the Christmas story different? If God came down all throughout the bible, what is unique about the incarnation?
Don’t worry Obi-wan, here is your answer.
God intervened in his people’s lives through those physical appearances, but with the incarnation of Jesus Christ, there is no further need for such temporary theophanies. Jesus Christ was not a theophany but something entirely new: a merging of God and man. (1)
The incarnation is not God showing up on a mystical throne in a vision, or in a bush, or even for just a moment while we are doing something dumb (See the fall of man, or tower of babel).
He didn’t come as an authority figure.
He didn’t come on a white horse.
He didn’t come to punish or condemn.
Jesus came down to be with us, like us. To experience life like us. To know hunger, and thirst, and tiredness, and sweat, and hurt, and all the fragility and monotony of what it means to be human.
I love the way the “Jesus Storybook Bible” that we read to Annie and Royal puts it:
Jesus is called the Word of God because everything God wanted to say to us, in a person.
All of this to say, the incarnation is unique amongst God’s other visitations, the question as to why Jesus came like this. I will leave that to you as you can read through one of my favourite passages in the scriptures. Colossians 1.