The Incarnation: A Wonder of Grace
THE INCARNATION: A WONDER OF GRACE
It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. "The Word became flesh" (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises. Heeding to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this; the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.
How are we to think of the incarnation: The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. "He, Who has always been God by nature," writes Paul, "did not cling to His prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal" (Phil. 2:6, PHILLIPS). And all this was for our salvation.
The key text in the New Testament for interpreting the incarnation is not, therefore, the bare statement in John 1:14, "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us," but rather the more comprehensive statement of 2 Corinthians 8:9, "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." Here is stated not the fact of the incarnation only, but also its meaning; the taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way that shows us how we should set it before ourselves and ever view it--not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.
—J. I. Packer, from COME, THOU LONG-EXPECTED JESUS: EXPERIENCING THE PEACE AND PROMISE OF CHRISTMAS, edited by Nancy Guthrie. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008, pp. 69-70. ISBN 978-1-4335-0180-7. Excerpted from chapter five, "God Incarnate," in KNOWING GOD. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973, Text Americanized and completely retypeset in 1993. ISBN 0-8308-1650-X. Both of these volumes are highly recommended.
[One of my favorite hymns about the incarnation, Frank Houghton's "Thou Who Wast Rich," is based on this same verse that Packer references, 2 Corinthians 8:9. See www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2000-12-26 for the three stanzas and the story of how the hymn's origin relates to the martyrdom of my great aunt and uncle John and Betty Stam in China, December 1934.]
MORE WORSHIP QUOTES FOR ADVENT & CHRISTMAS
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2005-12-06 (“O Come, O Come, Immanuel”)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2000-12-26 ("Thou Who Wast Rich")
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=1995-12-20 (C. S. Lewis)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2004-12-21 (Ambrose and Luther)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2005-12-20 (Dutch Carol)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=1996-12-24 (Ulrich Shaffer)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2006-12-12 ("The Gift of Gifts")
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2004-12-07 ("Of the Father's Love Begotten")
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2006-12-26 (Augustine and Lewis)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2007-12-18 (Thomas à Kempis)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2007-12-25 (Clarkson, Communion Hymn)
"Let every heart prepare Him room."
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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