the weblog of Alan Knox

Remembering the Incarnation

Posted by on Dec 12, 2007 in discipleship, synchroblog | 7 comments

This post is part of a synchroblog on the topic “Redeeming the Season”. A few weeks ago, when this topic was introduced, I thought through several options for this post. However, as December rolled along and we came close to Christmas, I started thinking about the incarnation, and specifically how all of my Christmas preparations reminded me of the incarnation – or how they did not remind me of the incarnation. These are personal reflections. I am not intending to suggest that everyone reflects on these things in the same way.

The incarnation is one of the most remarkable doctrines of the Christian faith. God became man and dwelled among us – it is almost incomprehensible! There are many exciting and life-changing truths that can be explored by beginning with the incarnation such as the love of God, the mercy and compassion of God, redemption, relationship, unity, etc. Perhaps the most exciting corollary (if it can be called a corollary) to the incarnation for me is the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus came, and lived, and died, and rose, and ascended, and promised to send “another helper” – the Holy Spirit. Thus, because of the incarnation, God not only dwelled with us, he now dwells in us.

But, I’ve realized this “Christmas season” that very little of what I do or think or say actually reminds me of the incarnation. Christmas trees and decorations and Christmas cards do not remind me of the incarnation. I think they’re supposed to, but they don’t. As much as I love to sing Christmas carols, they remind me of a baby, but not the incarnation. Christmas candy and fruit cakes and eggnog do not remind me of the incarnation, although I love them. Christmas gifts and wish lists and shopping do not remind me of the incarnation. Yes, I know that God gave his son, but perhaps I’m too focused on myself, but Christmas gifts do not remind me of the incarnation. Parades and craft sales do not remind me of the incarnation.

Like I said, I love these things. They make me feel festive and joyous and giving and grateful and happy. But, they do not remind me of the incarnation. I love to decorate our house and look at the decorations at other houses. I love Christmas carols and songs – both singing them and listening to them. I love the festivities and activities that surround Christmas. I love giving and getting Christmas. But, I cannot say that these activities have reminded me of the incarnation this year.

However, I have been reminded of the incarnation. When I met with a small group of students and learned about people who were being forced into prostitution or sold into slavery or forced to work for very little money, I was reminded of the incarnation.

When I sat down with some friends and heard what God was doing in their lives and listened to their struggles and victories, I was reminded of the incarnation.

When I saw some adults sit down on the floor to play with and talk to underprivileged children, I was reminded of the incarnation.

When I read emails from people who are struggling to determine God’s will for them and their family but recognizing the hope and promise that they have in him, I was reminded of the incarnation.

There’s nothing wrong with nativity scenes and carols. But they remind me of a baby in a manger, not the God of the universe who dwells within me. There’s nothing wrong with Santa and Rudolph and Frosty and Jack Frost. But they remind me of gifts and fun and happiness and winter, not that I should abide in Christ as he abides in me. There’s nothing wrong with hanging the greens and decking the halls and sleighing the bells. But they remind me of festivities and parties and fun times, not the indwelling power that is within me – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

As I’ve thought about the Christmas season this year, more than anything I’ve realized that it does little to help me in my walk with Christ. Remember, this is my conclusion, not yours. Perhaps celebrating Christmas helps you in your walk with Christ and helps you grow in maturity toward Christ-likeness. I will continue to celebrate Christmas, because my family, friends, and I all enjoy the festivities. But, I recognize that Christmas is not really about the incarnation – at least not in the sense that I need to remember and meditate on the incarnation.

In fact, as I’ve thought about the Christmas season, I’ve also realized that I need to remember and meditate on the incarnation throughout the year – possibly every day, every hour, every moment.

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Redeeming the Season is the Topic for this month’s SynchroBlog. Now there are a variety of seasons being celebrated at the end of each year from Christmas to Hannukah to Eid al-Adha and Muharram, from the Winter Solstice to Kwanzaa and Yule. Some people celebrate none of these seasonal holydays, and do so for good reason. Below is a variety of responses to the subject of redeeming the season. From the discipline of simplicity, to uninhibited celebration, to refraining from celebrating, to celebrating another’s holyday for the purpose of identificational evangelism the subject is explored. Follow the links below to “Redeeming the Season.” For more holidays to consider see here

Recapturing the Spirit of Christmas at Sonja Andrew’s Calacirian
Fanning the Flickering Flame of Advent at Paul Walker’s Out of the Cocoon
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Eager Longing at Elizaphanian
The Battle Rages at Bryan Riley’s Charis Shalom
Secularizing Christmas at JohnSmulo.com
There’s Something About Mary at Hello Said Jenelle
Geocentric Versus Anthropocentric Holydays at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Celebrating Christmas in a Pluralistic Society at Matt Stone’s Journeys in Between
The Ghost of Christmas Past at Erin Word’s Decompressing Faith
Redeeming the season — season of redemption by Steve Hayes
Remembering the Incarnation at Alan Knox’ The Assembling of the Church
A Biblical Response to a Secular Christmas by Glenn Ansley’s Bad Theology
Happy Life Day at The Agent B Files
What’s So Bad About Christmas? at Julie Clawson’s One Hand Clapping


7 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-12-2007

    Excellent post Alan. I love the distinction of the tradition festivities in contrast with the true meaning of Christmas in the incarnation. Keep up the good work

    –Trey

  2. 12-12-2007

    I absolutely agree with this paragraph.

    “In fact, as I’ve thought about the Christmas season, I’ve also realized that I need to remember and meditate on the incarnation throughout the year – possibly every day, every hour, every moment.”

    BTW, why don’t we have any decorations in the office?

  3. 12-12-2007

    I love the focus of incarnation, but it seems to me that you should be asking God how He can help you take things like the manger and other Christmas decor and have it remind you of the incarnation. And how that infant is incarnation but not incarnation alone.

  4. 12-12-2007

    Trey,

    Thank you for the encouragement.

    Glenn,

    Thank you for reminding me. We have decorations now. :)

    Bryan,

    Yes, you’re right. These things should remind me of the incarnation. But, just being completely honest with you and with myself, they don’t.

    -Alan

  5. 12-21-2007

    Excellent thoughts here. I especially like the examples you give of how non-Christmasy gatherings pointed you towards the incarnation.

  6. 12-12-2012

    But the baby in the manger is the God of the universe! That’s the scandal of the incarnation.

  7. 12-13-2012

    Brian,

    Yes. And a bigger, more personal scandal is that the God of the universe was also born in me and continues to live in me… daily.

    -Alan