As we celebrate the Christmas Nativity we are bearing witness to an astonishing event, the incarnation of the infinite eternal Christ as a member of the human race, a tiny baby born into a working class family under very unsanitary conditions – Jesus, the Christ, as Emmanuel (God with us). God in the flesh, walking among us, eating and drinking and experiencing all of the same emotions that we all do. And inviting us to follow him into the kingdom of heaven by being born again of water and the Spirit into the family of God (John 3:1-8)
Now to me it is even more astounding to realize God’s incarnation is continuing. Just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was arrested, Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:20-24 NIV)
A little earlier Jesus has said to this disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17 NIV)
He will be in you – incarnation of God! This then first occurred on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter preached a powerful sermon. (Acts 2:1-36) And it continues today as evidenced by what happened next.
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (Acts 2:37-39 NIV)
So, as the Apostle Paul tells us “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27 NIV) That is to say, Christ is incarnated in each one of us and we have become one with him. This is astounding, but it should not be unexpected. For, as Paul told the church at Ephesus “For God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: He purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him.” (Ephesians 1:9,10 J.B. Phillips translation)
Therefore, incarnation will ultimately include all of creation. This is what Richard Rohr calls the Universal Christ.1 Wow! Fantastic! Astounding! So on Christmas Day we are celebrating more than just the birth of the Christ child, we are celebrating the ultimate restoration of the whole creation to the state God originally intended. So rejoice and give God the glory!
- Rohr, Richard, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (New York, NY: Convergent Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2019)