(The following is the devotional I gave at the Christmas banquet of Kingston Bible College and Academy last week.)
At Christmas, our attention turns to a little stable in Bethlehem, and to a little manger inside it. And that manger, at that moment, was the centre of the universe. If you could see with spiritual eyes, you would have seen that the manger was the place where Heaven and earth intersected – where the eternal and the physical mingled for the first time. For there, in that manger, lay God in visible physical form. Nothing like this had ever happened before. The divine had broken into the earthly – permanently. A man who was like any other in his humanity was unlike any other in His deity. Christmas changed everything. The world would never be the same again.
The question I want to answer tonight is this: How would the world never be the same again? In other words, what are the implications of the fact that God entered the world as a man?
The number of implications could not be fully covered in a month of Sundays! But let’s look at three implications of the Incarnation tonight.
1. It means that our past sin was ruinous.
The solution reveals the extent of the problem. The power cord of my wife’s MacBook right now isn’t charging her computer. It will power it, but it won’t charge it. I’m going to have to bring it in to a store. Now, if they try plugging it in with a different charger, and the computer charges, then we’ll know that the problem was the charger – an easy fix. But the problem might be more serious. If they say to me, “I’m sorry, sir, but the only way to fix this problem is for us to completely replace the laptop,” then I’ll know that it is a serious problem.
What kind of problem did the first sin of Adam create? Well, what was the solution? Was it merely the replacement of a part – a little adjustment made in the universe or a new component put into human beings? No! Sin required the infinitely holy and eternally existing Son of God to take on flesh as a human being – a mind-bending miracle – to die a horrific, bloody death, then to rise again from the grave.
And in that death, God said a loud “No” to the old creation. It had to be destroyed, to be brought down into the grave in death. Our sin was so bad that it required a reset of creation – a new creation, started by Jesus. The earth was cursed; mankind was hopelessly corrupted. The physical world couldn’t be fixed; it had to be completely replaced. Our sin was world-destroying and creation-shattering.
2. It means that our future hope is glorious.
When Jesus rose again, He was the “firstfruits” of the new creation; we will see the full harvest when our bodies (not just our spirits) are redeemed, and when God makes a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. When Jesus arose, His body was unlike any other body in the world. In His resurrection, the first ever human being with an immortal body, uncorrupted by decay or the possibility of old age was in the world.
But it won’t remain that way! When each of us dies, we will be buried in the ground – but not to stay there! Our bodies will be planted in the ground like a seed, to burst forth in a glorious new form in the great harvest that will happen when Jesus comes again! Paul wrote that the body of the believer, in burial, “is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44).
Jesus’ coming is world-restoring. He came to save not only our souls but also our bodies; not only our spirits but also the universe. Our future hope is glorious!
3. It means that our present lives are meaningful.
So where are we in the now, between the past of our ruinous sin and the glory of our future hope? Should we just sit around and wait for God to redeem all of creation?
No! Because God the Son took on a body, we can tell that God does not hate matter. He loves it, for He created it! So we can live today, in our physical bodies in this physical world, doing physical things, pleasing the Lord.
Here’s one application for Christmastime: The Incarnation means that we can celebrate Christmas physically.
Too often, we filter our lives into two categories: the spiritual and the physical. There are spiritual activities, like going to church, reading our Bibles, and praying, and then there’s everything else: activities that are merely physical and not very spiritual, like eating food, playing soccer, building with Legos, drinking hot chocolate, going to work, etc.
But the Incarnation shows us that that is a wrong way to sort out the activities of our lives. Because the eternally preexisting Son of God entered the material universe, receiving a physical body – the body He still has! – everything matters – even physical things! Because we are celebrating tonight the time when God took on flesh, we should focus on many physical things when we celebrate it, like hot chocolate, eggnog, a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, a Christmas tree, stockings filled with goodies, and presents.
We’re celebrating Christmas tonight with a banquet – enjoying physical food that nourishes and brings pleasure to our physical bodies. And this is a good thing; it is not unspiritual! It is perfectly fitting to celebrate Jesus’ physical birth by enjoying the physical world He created! The food we’re eating tonight is a gift. And how do you respond to a gift that someone loves? By saying, “Well, this is unspiritual, so I can’t really enjoy it”? My wife wouldn’t appreciate my treating one of her Christmas gifts to me in that way!
How about buying Christmas presents for each other? We are often warned about the dangers of materialism – and that is a present danger, for we can easily make Christmas all about stuff and forget about Jesus. But because Jesus joined us in our physical world, it is entirely appropriate to celebrate by giving physical gifts to each other!
So by all means, read the Christmas story from Luke 2 at home before you open presents. Sing Christmas carols and pray to thank God for “his unspeakable gift” of Christ (II Cor. 9:15). And then open presents with joy; drink eggnog to the glory of God; eat the Christmas turkey with thankfulness to God, whose gift that is.
Because Jesus Christ came and took on a body, your present physical life – all of it – is meaningful. So make Christmas a day when you say “thank you” to Jesus by giving presents to each other and eating physical food, to His glory!