The incarnation, when ‘God’ entered history was not an event meant to be remembered as just the birth of a particular baby, a tradition to be celebrated as a sentimental family time of good will. It was definitely not meant to be a time of self-indulgence and wishful thinking that everything will be okay in the end.
It was an event to remind us of a choice we are called to make because of the life and teaching of that baby. His claims and actions challenge us to be clear about the fundamentals of life, their implications and how they impact on our future. The choice is not about our success and pleasure, but about the peace and fulfilment of the community we live in and ultimately that of the world.
The story of the incarnation of ‘Word’ becoming flesh makes it very clear that choosing a fulfilled life, that centres on true peace, is not easy but a narrow (unpopular) road. Certainly the typical understanding of success and a self-indulgent, easy life for those that choose to follow that baby is not a realistic expectation. Jesus himself said (Matt 10: 34) that he did not come to bring peace (as the world understands it) to the earth but a sword. The decision you make about his ‘advent’ will divide people and the cost in choosing him will be to be condemned by those who decided differently. You will have to take up that condemnation (the cross) daily but it will grant you true life.
Take a look at the features of the advent that indicate what you can expect. It is not what the ‘world’ would accept as successful or desirable but are indicators of the road we must take to achieve the fulfilment and peace we seek.
1. Joseph was disgraced. His betrothed was apparently not a virgin. She was pregnant and unmarried. The standard punishment was stoning to death (See John 8). To solve this embarrassment, he offered to divorce her.
2. Mary was an embarrassment. She was not honoured as her cousin Elizabeth, over whom everybody was rejoicing and making a fuss. Instead of a stable, Elizabeth had her baby at home amongst her husband’s community. Mary had her baby in an isolated foreign location, in a place reserved for animals devoid of her family support.
3. They became refugees seeking asylum in Egypt.
4. The King back home had tried to kill her and the baby. He slaughtered hundreds in his attempt to kill an alternate choice for king.
5. The new ‘King’ was not a powerful warrior or wealthy and influential. He was of humble origins, born in a stable, visited by shepherds who were considered riff raff and so godless and unclean that they were not allowed past the outer courts of the temple (with the women) when they went to worship. The other visitors were impure, ‘non elect’ gentile outsiders. They were wise men whose beliefs were certainly not conventional Jewish ones. They were foreign astrologers and scientists.
6. Jesus was a common name at the time and he came from Galilee which was derided as a place only for ignorant, unsophisticated country bumpkins.
7. He didn’t act like an aloof King but mixed with all the wrong sorts of people. He was approachable unlike ‘real’ kings or even God. The primary response to God when He was approached was fear.
8. The prophetic words said over his birth indicate clearly the future emphasis of his mission and teaching; the ‘Magnificat’ spoken by Mary says that:
a. He would scatter the proud,
b. bring down the arrogant rulers,
c. the humble would be lifted up,
d. the hungry would be filled with good things,
e. the rich would be sent away,
f. and he would be merciful to the faithful.
These prophetic words clearly indicate that His intentions were egalitarian with a heart for the oppressed and marginalised who had been ignored by those whose responsibility it was to meet their needs; see Luke 4: 18 & 19.
9. Simeon in the Temple at Jesus’ circumcision saw that he would challenge people to choose how they should respond to him, a choice that would cause conflict with this fallen world.
10. Jesus’ uncle, Zachariah, saw conflict too and prayed for ‘salvation from the enemies that hate us’.
All these indicate what the values oh Advent are and the direction that the life of a follower of this baby would take. It certainly is not a decision taken without ‘counting the cost’ and it would be counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, resulting in many points of conflict with the accepted norms.
Yet this baby Jesus brought us ‘Good News’: that God has returned and is now with us, Emmanuel; where before only the Prince of Darkness reigned. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, Satan is now defeated, condemned (Jn14:30) and will be driven out (Jn 12:30) and destroyed (1Cor 15:24 &25) for Jesus has overcome the world (Jn16:3) and is now King. The accuser, Satan has nothing to say to those who believe for Jesus has dealt with our sin. The ransom has already been paid. With his resurrection, he has established His Kingdom on earth through his victory, which is now advancing vigorously, so that even the defences of the Devil won’t be able to withstand it. His Kingdom advances through the loving work of his renewed people who now have the very Spirit of God within them until the consummation when Jesus our King will return on that last day.
This is what Christmas is all about and for those who have chosen to be followers of that baby we celebrate with wonderment and thanksgiving the hope for a redeemed world where the fall has been reversed and we will return to Eden.
Written by Sweis Meijers