The Incarnation…a post by Rich

As we turn our minds and hearts to the birth of our Savior this Christmas season we are reminded again of the significance of the Son of God’s incarnation. The descent of God in assuming human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ is history’s game changer.  Malcolm Muggeridge expresses it this way,

“Thanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama. God reaches down to relate himself to man, and man reaches up to relate himself to God. Time looks into eternity and eternity into time, making now always and always now. Everything is transformed by this sublime drama of the Incarnation, God’s special parable for fallen man in a fallen world. The way opens before us that was charted in the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a way that successive generations of believers have striven to follow. They have derived there from the moral, spiritual, and intellectual creativity out of which has come everything truly great in our art, our literature, our music. From that source comes the splendor of the great cathedrals and the illumination of the saints and mystics, as well as countless lives of dedication, men and women serving their God and loving their Savior in humility and faith.”

And so we marvel at this child, the enfleshed Son of God. Helpless and frail, dependent and in need of nurturance, and all the while by the eternal plan of God taking the material world, our humanity, into God. The incarnation is the visible manifestation of God loving us. It is God coming to be with us and for us. It is God making evident his relentless pursuit of those who are his own. It is not a generic love but a particular love. A specific one comes, one born in Bethlehem, who with parents Mary and Joseph, two very specific individuals, flees to Egypt, who is then tempted, as we are in every respect, and baptized. He drinks, laughs, weeps, heals, sleeps, prays, and teaches. He dies and is buried, is raised from the dead and he ascends to heaven. He sends the Holy Spirit. Jesus, this particular man, the Son of God incarnate does all of this for us and for our sake- for our salvation and God’s glory.

And now by faith we live in Him. His life is now our life. As Julie Canlis writes, “the circumference of our identity now involves another person.” Relational beings that we are we now have our truest identity reclaimed and redeemed in Christ. This is not a vague spiritual escapism. It is a particular love calling us to communion and in that communion we become ourselves as God intended. This particular Savior takes me and you in all your sin, wounds, and weaknesses and establishes us in the family of God as adopted sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ in all our humanity. The incarnation does all this and more. Jesus said this, “he who believes in me has eternal life.” Life within the Trinitarian God now made possible through the incarnation. Thanks be to God.

Baking Christmas Cookies…a post by Joy

Baking and decorating cookies is a Christmas tradition that I have done with my children, my grandson, my great nieces here for Thanksgiving, and with other children throughout the years. Connecting with my own “inner child” while making cookies with the children brings a lot of delight to me. It’s wonderful that God created us with the ability to be child-like at times. It’s a way that we  can  “step into” exemplifying that part of Christ. Amazingly, God chose to send His son into the world as an infant to live and experience the life of being a child before growing into adulthood.  For me, children are some of the best teachers when it comes to becoming more like Christ in our journey of Christian Spiritual Formation.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as an adult came from a 5 year old boy. He was a new piano student of mine. I had worked with his small  group class for 4 months getting ready for their first recital. Intentionally, I  did not use the word “nervous” with my young students when talking about performance. Using words like, “silly,” “excited”, “happy,”  I asked each of the students how they were feeling before they went to the piano to perform their pieces for their parents and classmates.  Michael, the 5 year old boy, said, “I was not excited or silly, or happy. I was just waiting.”  As he spoke with a “matter of fact assurance”, gentle tears fell on my face as I knew God had spoken to me through this precious little boy.  At the time,  Jim and I were in a transitional stage praying about a big move.  Michael had been sitting still, patiently waiting for his “next move” to the piano as he listened to the music of the previous student. The Holy Spirit reminded me that God was in charge of our situation and that we needed to trust Him and continue to be confident in the “waiting place” where we found ourselves…we weren’t “silly, excited, or happy, we were just waiting.”

To be child-like is not always about 2 year old tantrums,  or being selfish. It is about having a simple trust of the one who is “in charge.” For Jesus, to become an infant to enter this world, He had to trust His Father about this journey of entering the human race as fully God and fully human. I have to trust God in His daily work in me in regards to Spiritual Formation and transformation.

I can imagine that as Jesus grew up as a child, He definitely lived as all children for thousands of years in that He “lived in the moment.” This fascinates me about children and inspires me too. They draw us in to engage with them if we will just be aware of their invitation to be present to them.

Children can invite us to live in the moment with whatever is happening at that time.  They make us realize that it’s true what has been said,  “Life is what happens while we are making plans.”  Granted there are times when we can’t always enter into their timetable. It seems that Christ gives them as a gift to us to help us to pay attention to the invitations to be in the moment with them. We have to keep returning to them constantly in the same way we must keep returning to Christ when we actually pay attention to His invitation to notice Him in the moment and really “BE” there with Him.

During the Advent Season, as I once again dwell  on the beautiful story of how Jesus came to the earth by being born of a virgin,  I really want to listen, be aware, and wait patiently as I intentionally try to be present to the child-like presence of Christ. The Holy Spirit reminds me in my own “child-likeness” to trust God fully, to live in the moment in His presence and to remember, that Jesus valued children so much that He said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14).

After all, Jesus entered the world as a child to begin the sacrificial work that God, the Father, had given Him to complete in His adulthood. We can enter into our child-likeness, especially during this Advent season, as we trust God, as we gleefully anticipate His birthday celebration and as we participate in each waking moment of His presence to us. We are also on a journey for Christ to complete His transformational work in us from childhood through adulthood.

EMMANUEL: GOD IS WITH US, in our “child-likeness” places of soul and that means even when we bake Christmas cookies with others or just Jesus and me!