One of my favorite things about Advent has to be the celebration of the Incarnation. Each week Advent looks at a different part of the incarnational reality of Jesus Christ, and the faith that comes from Him. Traditionally Hope, Peace, Joy and Love have been seen as the themes of this time of year. Each theme helps us to understand the impact of the Incarnation, and informs how we can embrace an incarnational lifestyle.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory… (John 1.14)
God moved in.
When I consider the Incarnation this is always the first thought that comes to mind. The creator of the universe didn’t just give an arbitrary command to do this or that, he came down to earth and lived as man. And it wasn’t just that he beamed himself down from heaven, he experienced entrance into the world the same way the rest of us do, but in the lowliest of conditions.
He grew in stature and wisdom, took on a trade and worked with his father, like a lot of other jewish boys in the time period. The beauty in the Lords life on earth is that he did all these things, in the same conditions we do them in, with the same temptations that we face day in and day out, but did so without breaking of the commands laid down for faithful God followers. HE WAS PERFECT.
Jesus’ life on earth gives us hope that in the same power that he lived each day of his life, we too can pursue a life that doesn’t break the Fathers commands. We can live a life that makes much of Jesus Christ because the hope of the incarnation is not just that God dwelt among us but that the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us, empowering us for every good work in Christ Jesus (Gal 3.14; 2 Tim 2.20-21). God is still with us, the Incarnation has not come and gone, it is still active and alive now.
The Incarnation is a comfort knowing we are not alone. It brings a peace that goes beyond any understanding or description. This is one of those things that just is, and the only reasoning behind it is God is so magnificent and those who have faith know just intrinsically know God is in control.
As we begin to live a life that reflects what Jesus modeled there is a satisfaction that even when we fail by worldly standards, it’s okay. This joy seems to power beyond discouragement, pain and sorrow. To be cliche it really is something that only can come from the Lord. This joy that we live with is what pushes us on to continue in the work of the Gospel, as bleak as success might seem, we can continue on because our Joy is fueled by our working the spirit with obedience to Jesus.
Love is the chief of each of these, because it is ultimately why we can experience hope, peace and joy. It is by love that God would come and dwell among us. It is by love that God would sacrifice himself for us to be reunited with him, and it is by love that we can begin to live a life that is bigger than anything we can imagine. The life we live is bigger because it is for something bigger. It is by love that ourselves can embody the incarnation, moving in to the neighborhood and proclaiming the Gospel so that hope, peace, joy and love can manifest itself in the hearts of those who we care about.
So Advent is not just an empty practice, but an opportunity to recalibrate our lives around the incarnational reality of our faith and the Gospel. Help us Lord, as we celebrate your incarnation let us not forget that we are partakers of that same incarnation. Come Lord Jesus, Come.