God came into time and space in the Incarnation. He united himself with us, giving us the greatest gift.
“When I draw the Lord He’ll be a real big man. He has to be to explain the way things are” (A Study of Courage and Fear). A young black girl in Mississippi was describing a picture of God she had drawn at the request of psychiatrist and Harvard professor Robert Coles. Dr. Coles won the Pulitzer Prize for his Children of Crisis series.
The girl was already struggling with the world at large, and with what it meant to be a black woman in the American South. Her expectations of God are shared by Christians everywhere. We all like to visualize God as a “real big man” capable of giving the help we need.
God gave himself
But ironically, when God came in the flesh, he didn’t begin his human existence as a “real big man.” In Jesus, God started the way we start. He was born. He acted in history to explain and resolve “the way things are.” He gave humanity the ultimate gift: he gave us himself. God came in the flesh, becoming one of us, for our salvation.
The teaching of Christianity that describes the historical reality of God becoming flesh is called the Incarnation. Jesus came in the flesh so that those who believe in him might be redeemed, reconciled and saved. The act of God becoming a human is the greatest gift ever given, the ultimate expression of love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s greatest gift included his human birth, his life among sinful human beings and his atoning work on the cross.
Jesus’ birth, his life and his sacrificial death help us understand the depth of God’s love. Jesus Christ is a “real big man.” John tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). God came in the flesh as one of us because of sin. He came because of hatred, greed, tyranny and racism. He came because of brutality, violence and war.
Love means giving
Jesus came to show us how and what to love. He showed us that love means giving of ourselves for others. He showed us that the object of love ought to be human beings, not things.
That’s just one of the problems that we have as we seek to follow Jesus Christ. We often have our priorities backward. Instead of loving people, we are tempted and encouraged to love things.
The act of God becoming flesh demonstrated that material things aren’t wrong, of and by themselves. Jesus showed us that we should use things. But Christ also showed us that material things should never become the object of our affection or adoration. When we reverse this ethical foundation, spiritual disaster occurs. We begin to use people, and love things.
That is an accurate picture of life apart from Jesus Christ. He came in the flesh because he loved people, not things.
Sometimes we can focus on the wrong things about Jesus’ birth and his life. We minimize or forget about worshiping our Savior who loved us by coming in the flesh and dying for our sins. We can fail to focus on the meaning of his coming.
The meaning of his birth and life transcends any specific date on the calendar. He loves us, not because we are things, but because we are people. He came to atone for our sins, to save us and to help us come to know God. He didn’t come so that our worship of him would become a worship of things.