Christmas Eve: Incarnation
Today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Jesus’ birthday! This is such a fun season of the year, with presents and Santa, cookies and Christmas trees, lights and decorations. But besides all of these fun things, why is Christmas special? What inspired all of this celebration in the first place?
We have read and heard several Scripture passages today/tonight that tell us why Christmas is so special. In John 1:1, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And then in verse 14 we read, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” What is the Word?
The Word is the logos, which is a Greek word that in ancient times was used to describe the mind of God. According to Philo who was an ancient Jewish philosopher, the logos was the creative energy of God and was the essence of God, the mind of God. So, here, in the Gospel of John, the author is using the Logos or the Word to describe Jesus and where he came from. We learn that Jesus, the logos, the Word, was God and became human.
We heard the same thing in our Philippians passage as well. In Philippians 2:6 we read that Jesus “was in the form of God,” and then at the end of verse 7, that He was “born in human likeness.” And this idea is repeated again in the next line of verse 7, “being found in human form.” In this passage Jesus is described as being in the form of God and in human form as well. Here again, Jesus is God becoming human. When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the birth of God in human form.
There is a word for this concept of God being in human form. It’s a long one: incarnation. How are we ever supposed to remember this long word? Well, I have a carnation flower. It’s a red carnation. I also have a white rose bud. Where is the rose bud? [In!] … it’s in-carnation! … Maybe my corny joke will help you remember the word incarnation. How will you remember what it means?
The incarnation means God becoming human and dwelling among us, which means that God is with us. God became human and entered into the human experience, going through birth, life, and death. God can relate to everything that we experience. God is not a distant deity, pointing a finger at us, and telling us we are bad. Rather God is a loving God, always reaching out to us, always accompanying us on our journey through life. God is with us. God being with us was enabled by God becoming human in Jesus. God being with us was enabled by the incarnation.
This is hard for us to imagine. Sometimes it feels like Jesus’ birth happened so long ago - how can that event still have an impact on me today? It is often difficult for us to imagine how God can enter into our own lives. And when God does, it is difficult for us to recognize that it is God’s loving presence that has touched us. I thank God for artists because they are often able to create an image for something that is difficult to describe with words. The incarnation is difficult to describe with words. I want to show you some images of the incarnation, of God in human form, of Jesus with his mother Mary. Hopefully these images will help you imagine how God has entered into all of humanity and also how God has entered into your own life. Let’s take a look at these.
This is how some artists have shown Jesus’ birth to help us see how Jesus has entered into all of humanity in the incarnation. The incarnation, God becoming human, was an event that happened way back then, but it also continues today. When God became human, God entered into humanity to be with us for all time. This is helpful for us because we often forget that God acts in ways that we could never ask for or imagine and so we constantly have to be willing to think outside the box in order to recognize Jesus, the incarnation, God with us, in our own lives.
[For photos of the banners and the craft for the evening, click here.]
These banners that are up in the sanctuary tonight are designed to help us think about God being with us. We have two banners up tonight. One is a beloved piece that Briarwood has loved for a long time that was made by S. D.. It shows the starry night and says, “Come, Lord Jesus.” As we think about the incarnation, and recognizing God with us, this banner symbolizes those times when we find God with us in nature. But it can also symbolize the search, the waiting, the times when we might not recognize that God is there, but we still hope for a sign.
The other banner is brand new and still has some detail work left to do, so it will come down after the services today, but isn’t it beautiful, too? It was made by R. S., S. D., S. L., and J. D.. It has the sun-burst behind the Celtic cross. This helps us think of God being with us, too. The sun-burst represents God bringing light into the darkness of our lives. The cross represents Jesus’ death and the golden colour of the cross represents His resurrection. The circle represents God’s eternity and specifically God’s eternal, unending love for us. God’s love never fails. God is always with us.
Right now, I’d like you to think about how the incarnation has impacted your own life. I’d like you to think about God being with you in your own life. How has God entered into your life this season? Have you seen evidence of the incarnation around you? How has God been with you? Through something ordinary? Or have you experienced something unexplainable? Or, have you had an unexpected sense of hope, peace, joy, or love? Or something else? I’d like us to take a few minutes to make our own banners, our own reminders of God’s presence in our lives, of God with us. You can take these home, either use them as bookmarks or put them up next to your desk or where you brush your teeth, as a reminder of how God has been with you this season.
Mine has the peace sign and some people on it. These last few weeks have been busy and stressful, but I have noticed God with me through the people around me helping with all that needed to be done. God came into my human life through others. And in the midst of all the busy-ness, sometimes God would give me the gift of unexplainable peace in the midst of chaos or stress and I knew it was God’s hand on me helping me through it all. As we pass out the supplies I invite you to turn to your neighbour and share how God has been with you. And then you can help each other think of ways to write or draw that on your own banner. So you can have your own reminder of the incarnation, God with you.