Meditating on the Incarnation: An Invitation to Step out of the Steeple’s Shadows
Christmas is about celebrating the life-altering birth and appearance of Jesus the Son of God. The church often emphasizes the death and resurrection of Christ, which are of utmost importance, but his birth and incarnation are vital to our daily life. When we take the time to meditate on Jesus’ birth, we begin to realize just how fascinating and significant it is to us today. Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God, who for all eternity experienced perfect and unadulterated fellowship among the members of the Trinity, willingly chose to give up that fellowship and enter this fallen and broken world. Jesus was there at the creation of the world and we know that all things were created by him, for him, through him, and in him. Jesus’ choice to enter this shattered world and to live and walk alongside it is incredibly bold, and humbling to understand. This is precisely why we need to sit and be still, meditating on the significance of the incarnation and the choice of Jesus to come.
We read in Galatians how Jesus humbled himself by becoming a man and by dying on a cross. He did all of this out of obedience to his Father and with joy set before him. Jesus came for a reason. We read this beautiful passage from Isaiah 61 and see its fulfillment in the person of Jesus:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit…”
Jesus came to save the sick and dead. He came to defeat sin, death, and Satan. Jesus came to Earth as a stranger, an alien, an immigrant, and yet familiar with the world around him.
If we have placed our faith and hope in Jesus, then we are called to go forth and love because we have first been loved. He gave his very life for us and we are now able to give our lives for the good of others. He came so that we can go. He accepted the wrath of God so that we would receive God’s blessing, love, and acceptance. As a result, Jesus calls his followers into a new community of people who are made to love their neighbors together and who experience and celebrate their union with Christ collectively.
This is the hope and the joy that we have in the birth of Jesus and this is why we celebrate Christmas. It is often easy to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends while entirely missing the reason we have Christmas in the first place. Without his birth, there would be no celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. He first chose to come to this earth in the form of a man and he is the ultimate gift. This choice should give us great hope.
The China Partnership longs to see more Chinese people come to a saving faith in Jesus. We train pastors in a robust theology of the gospel that not only focuses on Jesus’ death and resurrection, but on the entire person of Jesus – his incarnation, life, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection, ascension, reign, and future coming. If the Chinese church is able to live out the gospel of grace, they will know a fullness of life found only in the person of Jesus. Whenever the Chinese church faces uncertainty or difficulty, they can take comfort in the fact that Jesus endured all things and took on the full weight of sin. If Jesus accomplished his mission in the power of the Spirit and we believe that the Spirit abides in those who place their hope in Christ, then we know we can face all things.
The birth of Jesus doesn’t just empower the Chinese house church, it also enables the American church to step out of the shadows of the steeple. Church is not a building we attend on Sunday. It is the Bride of Christ, a vibrant community of people whose lives are centered on their resurrected King and who long for their Redeemer to make all things new. This motivates the Bride to love and serve those around her, seeking to bring more people into this community of faith.
It is often easy for church members to believe they are not called to love and serve in the church. Maybe we see others stepping up. Maybe we have not been asked or don’t know how to participate. Maybe we have not been told how or believe we do not have the right personality traits or abilities. Read this blog post as an invitation – an invitation to begin living your life through the lens of the incarnation and becoming an active participant in the renewal of all things.
Jesus came to save us. He came to rescue us. He came to bring us back from exile and free us from the slavery of sin. When we reflect on these gospel truths about our Savior, it gives us the motivation we need to love the broken, serve the poor, welcome the immigrant, and listen to the needy. Oh what motivation! It doesn’t come from a poster, greeting card, or t-shirt; rather, it comes from the birth and incarnation of our triumphant and glorious King.
May this Christmas season awaken in each of us a desire to actively love and serve our neighbors in all of their many circumstances, because we, like them, are in desperate need of a Savior. May his light guide each of us.
Jeff Kyle first went to China in the summer of 2004 and has been working with the China Partnership since graduating from Covenant College in 2006. He is passionate about US churches developing a global-local missions strategy. Jeff and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, live in New York City.