–December of 1998
The Word Was Made Flesh
Christmas is the time of year that gives us an opportunity to reflect on the ageless mystery of the Incarnation. Once again we walk into Bethlehem’s cold stable, stand alongside the shepherds, and peer down into the face of the Christ child. As we look at this helpless little babe, we have to remind ourselves that this is the Eternal Son Who commanded the worlds to be born out of the womb of nothing. These tiny arms laid the timbers of the universe and stretched forth the heavens like a curtain. It is no wonder that we ask ourselves in amazement, “Why? Why did He choose to put on the garment of our flesh and veil Himself with our humanity? Why did the Eternal Word become flesh?”
It is not difficult for us to understand that sin had separated the Creator from His creatures. The chasm caused by our transgression was so vast and deep that in order to bridge it there must be a mediator between God and man. This redeemer must be human so as to identify fully with fallen man, yet divine so as to be able to satisfy fully the demands of a Holy Law. It would take this “Lamb of God” to make full propitiation for sin and satisfy God’s holy justice.
But there is another side to the need for God to come in the flesh. God, indeed, had created man, but He had never been a man. He had watched men toil in the heat of the day, but He had never felt the blistering rays of the sun on His brow. He had seen men struggle and stagger in the midst of temptation, but He had never felt the onslaughts of the evil one. He had seen men bleed, but He had never bled. He had seen men standing on the verge of the grave, finally sinking to its hopeless depths, but He had never felt the cold grip of death or spread His omnipotent shoulders on the bottom of a sepulcher. How could this chasm be bridged? It could only be bridged in the God-man, Jesus Christ. In Christ, God could look at us with human eyes, speak to us with an earthly tongue and touch us with a brotherly hand. In Christ, God could walk the dusty trail of time. He could share our human existence. He could sit by a well of water, thirsty, and hungry. He could stand at the tomb of a friend or at the brow of a hill overlooking a city and weep for the condition of them both. He could enter into our world, see it, and feel it through our flesh.
Steven Covey tells the story of boarding a New York subway one morning to find a pleasant group of passengers sitting quietly, reading or merely resting with their eyes closed. Then suddenly a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat next to Covey and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the whole situation. The children were running back and forth, screaming, throwing things and even grabbing people’s papers. It was extremely disturbing and yet the man seemed to take no notice.
Covey relates, “It was very difficult not to be irritated. How could anyone be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all?”
Finally, Covey turned to the man and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you could control them a little more.”
The man lifted his gaze, as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time, and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Covey immediately saw things in a completely different perspective. He thought differently and felt differently about the man and his children’s behavior. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. He sought to do whatever he could to console this poor man and his children. He literally entered into this man’s sorrow.
Through the Incarnation, God has identified with us completely in Christ. He has become our Elder Brother, our dearest Friend and our High Priest who is “touched by the feelings of our infirmities.” The “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…” and neither heaven nor earth has been the same since.