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CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS

INCARNATION – ITS KEY SIGNIFICANCE FOR OUR SALVATION

According to the Bible, no one knows God (Romans 3:11; John 8:19,55a). Before we can be saved from our sins we need to be saved from our ignorance of God [John 1:18], from that blind darkness in which Satan holds us bound (2 Corinthians 4:4), from that corruption of truth (see Romans 1:18-32) in which we have substituted false understanding for true understanding (Jeremiah 2:9-13) and love to have it so (Jeremiah 5:30,31).

The prophets taught that the coming of Jesus Christ would bring knowledge of God to the world:

‘And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
    and all mankind together will see it.’  Isaiah 40:5.

 ‘You who bring good tidings to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
  You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
               lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
   “Here is your God!”’ Isaiah 40:9.

 ‘I will ... make you ... a light for the Gentiles,
    to open eyes that are blind, ...
    ... to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.’ Isaiah 42:6b,7.

 ‘No longer will a man teach his neighbour,
   or a man his brother, saying “Know the LORD,”
   for they will all know me,
   from the least to greatest.’ Jeremiah 31:34.

In the incarnation God comes to us: Emanuel - God with us. The Son who is born of Mary is called ‘Mighty God’ (Isaiah 9:6). It is not that Jesus was god-like. It is not that Jesus was god-ly. It is not that Jesus allowed God to have full sway in his life. Rather it is this: that Jesus, in the most absolute sense of the word, was God.

In seeing him, we see God. In knowing him, we know God (John 12:44-45; 14:7-9).
He himself said: ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30).

For this reason Jesus claims: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). The meaning is clear: in Jesus Christ alone is true knowledge of God to be found. All else is darkness, no matter how light it seems to be. He claimed also to be ‘the truth’ (John 14:6). All else then, is not the truth. There is only one place in which a human being can find the true God: that place is Jesus Christ (1John 5:20). If we do not recognize God in Jesus Christ then we, like the Jews with whom Jesus discussed his identity, do not know the God of the Bible (John 5:36-47; 8:19, 39-47, 54-56; 12:44-46), and our ‘god’ is just as much an idol or false god as if we were worshipping wood or stone.
 
Jesus Christ is God. If we do not first acknowledge this, then we do not know God and the cross can do nothing for us. Jesus said: ‘this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (John 17:3). He also said: ‘if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be you will indeed die in your sins’ (John 8:24).

Salvation is thus intimately and directly connected with the incarnation. If we fail to see that Jesus Christ is God-in-human-flesh it is impossible to be saved. The forgiveness obtained through the death of Jesus on the cross is effective only for those who believe in him. Jesus himself said that those who do not receive him, those who do not believe in his name, are already condemned because of that failure (John 3:16-18; see also John 1:12).

Whether we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas or his death and resurrection at Easter, let us not forget to give full significance to that birth. Let us remember his name: Emanuel - God with us. That infant life to whom we give praise and honour in the Christmas carols we sing is indeed worthy of that worship. Here lies our Creator. Here lies the One who sustains all things by his powerful word. Here lies the One who is Lord of lords and King of kings. Here lies our God.

Impossible?
Unbelievable?
Yes. To our blinded, darkened minds. Yes.

But this child grew and lived among us. His light shines upon us, dispersing the darkness, ripping away the blindness. No longer, he says, are you ignorant, blind and darkened. No longer can you say you do not know God. You have seen me: you have seen God. You know me: you know God (John 14:6-9). This is eternal life. This is salvation.

 © Rosemary Bardsley 2011