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By Bruce Atkinson
December 10, 2023

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

"Though the Son was incorporeal, He formed for Himself a body after our fashion. He appeared as one of the sheep; yet, He still remained the Shepherd. He was esteemed a servant; yet, He did not renounce the Sonship. He was carried in the womb of Mary, yet was arrayed in the nature of His Father. He walked upon the earth, yet He filled heaven. He appeared as an infant, yet He did not discard the eternity of His nature. He was invested with a body, but it did not circumscribe the unmixed simplicity of His Divinity... He needed sustenance inasmuch as He was man; yet, He did not cease to feed the entire world inasmuch as He is God. He put on the likeness of a servant, while not impairing the likeness of His Father. " - Melito of Sardis, 2nd century Bishop
For theologically-oriented believers, the season of Christmas is (among other things) a time to recall and celebrate the facts of the Incarnation; this is the purpose of this article.


Nothing is impossible for God. He created this universe out of nothing but His words. We also understand that around 2000 years ago, God chose Mary, a godly Jewish young woman who was a virgin, and caused her to conceive and later to deliver the Christ child to the world.

But we also need to understand that the "only begotten Son" did not begin at that first Christmas. He already was. Micah (5:2) prophesies: "But you, Bethlehem town, although you are little among the thousands in Judah, yet out of you shall come forth He who is to be ruler of Israel: whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting." And in the Gospel of John (8:58) we read of Jesus quoting Exodus (3:14) and referring to Himself: "Before Abraham was, I AM." John also quotes Jesus as saying "I came forth from the Father and have come into the world." (16:27). At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed to His Father in the presence of his disciples: "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:5) In other words, unlike us, Jesus came directly from the heavenly spirit world where He was Co-creator (John tells us that "there was nothing made without Him").
Being God, Christ is eternal-- there was never a time that He did not exist in the presence of the Father; and being Son, He is eternally begotten-- or, you might say spiritually, He is "always being born." Although God's nature never changes, His Son embodies the principle of creative, regenerative change (thus, resurrection). This is something we humans badly needed.

The amazing thing is that He became one of us-- with all of our vulnerabilities and limitations-- except one: Christ was without sin. Sin is simply "rebelling against God," and it is unlikely if not impossible that a holy God would rebel against Himself. However, as a man, Jesus was tempted and conceivably could have fallen. So, in the birth of Jesus, God reduced Himself to our level.

The Greek word kenosis has often been used by theologians to describe this self-limiting process. It refers to God's dispensing, or emptying of Himself to become human. The following passage from Paul's letter to the Philippians is considered by experts to be an early hymn to Christ, one that expresses the kenotic nature of the Incarnation:

Being in the very nature of God, [Jesus Christ] did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but regarded himself as nothing, taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 6-11)

Incarnation and Trinity

It is interesting that through the Incarnation, God revealed to us the existence of the Trinity. For only in the past 2000 years has it been possible for people see clearly that there was a Divine Son. The Messiah had been prophesied, but His divine nature was not made clear. The Holy Spirit was already known in the Old Testament-- as that aspect of God that communicated through the prophets and manifested God's Presence in other ways.

By reducing and humbling Himself in becoming human (as the Son) and still keeping control of the universe (as the Father), the One God revealed His triune nature. The Son left the heavenly realm to become our Savior, the Word-made-flesh. Yet somehow, the divine eternal unity was not disrupted.
Monotheism is the belief in one, and only one God. "Mono" means one. Jews, Muslims, and Christians all believe that there is only One God, and we all agree that the One God revealed Himself personally in relationships with Abraham and the prophets. So today's religious Jews and Muslims generally regard Christians as heretics--because in the Trinity, we seem to believe in multiple deities. And they know--that God is One. And they are right, but... they have not believed the rest of the story.

What is the Purpose of the Incarnation?

Remember the names that were given to Christ at His birth: Emmanuel (a Hebrew name that means "God-with-us," and Jesus (or Yeshua), a name that means "God saves." Together, these names mean that He is the "God-with-us-who-saves."

In order to redeem His special creation and to pro-create Himself-- that is, to have a bride and produce a divine family-- God had to find a way to make humanity divine. And that Way was Jesus. Choosing to be limited and "stuck in creation" for a period of time, God became one of us, growing, learning, teaching, ministering, suffering, and dying. To be fully "enfleshed" like us, to identify with us (and for us to be able to identify with Him) he needed to experience temptation and rejection and pain and death. The 12th Chapter of Hebrews puts it this way:

Verse 10: "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." Jesus was already perfect in the sense of being sinless, but this "perfection" refers to the process of maturation-- Jesus, too, had to grow up--in many ways. Verse 11: "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers..." God wants a family-- out of us. Verses 14-15: "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death..." He came to free us from both death and the fear of it... and Verses 17-18: "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 12:10-18)

God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, humbled Himself to become human. Therefore, because Jesus experienced the essentials of being human (experiencing suffering, betrayal, abandonment, death), He is now fully qualified to understand and judge us-- and is fully qualified to save us as well. It is His role as Savior that concerns us here.

It was a matter of NECESSITY (for us) that God be incarnated and be put into our situation as creatures before the Creator. It was the only way to avert our sentence of destruction. That is the most important reason why God chose to be incarnated as human. The motives of God? He is a relational God, a God of love. He wanted a people of His own; and more than that, He wanted a bride, and a family. To accomplish this, He had to first create beings "in His own image," and when they fell, He had to become a human Savior. Only God, in human form, could perfect and immortalize these fallen creatures.

Theologian Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology, 2000) codifies the reasons why Christ, as the Son of Man, had to become fully human:

1) In his function as our High Priest, it enables Jesus to represent us-- to God, angels, and the universe.
2) It qualified Him to be the substitute sacrifice for us, paying our penalty for sin.
3) It allows Him to be our mediator and advocate with the Father.
4) It fulfills God's original purpose of man's dominion over creation.
5) It made it possible for Jesus to be our example as an obedient servant- especially in His death.
6) It made it possible for Him lead the way for our resurrection-providing the "first born" pattern for the eternal bodies we shall one day have, and
7) His human experience in the flesh (especially His suffering) allows us to more easily believe that he sympathizes with us in our own suffering-- He's been there.

2000 plus years ago, Jesus did His part. Now it is our task to believe in Him. You know John 3:16: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that all who should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."


By David Kornfield

HE WHO IS ETERNAL ... allowed Himself to be bound by time.

HE WHO IS INFINITE ... became but a microscopic cell.

HE WHO IS FREEDOM AND LIGHT ... endured nine months in a warm dark womb.

HE WHO IS CREATOR ... became a creature.

HE WHO IS ALMIGHTY ... became a helpless human baby.

HE WHO IS OMNISCIENT ... took on the ignorance of infancy.

HE WHO IS WORD OF GOD ... was unable to communicate except through a baby's noises.

HE WHO HAS ALWAYS BEEN SPIRIT ... took on the awkwardness of a material body.

HE WHO IS LOVE ... was born in a stable because no one had room for His laboring mother.

HE WHO IS SOVEREIGN KING OF THE UNIVERSE ... became dependent on human parents for everything.

HE BEFORE WHOM THE SERAPHIM CONTINUOUSLY CRY "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY" ... was born to a sinner in a world under sin's dominion.

HE WHO IS RIGHTEOUS ... was accused of being an illegitimate child.

HE WHO IS UNCHANGING IN HIS NATURE ... experienced a life of constant change.

HE WHO IS LIFE ... was born to die a horrible death of torture on a cross.

Wonderfully, that was not the end of the story, for beyond Crucifixion was Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost. And we expectantly await His promised Return in glory and power. Come, Lord Jesus!

Bruce Atkinson is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary with a PhD in clinical psychology and an MA in theology. He earned an MS in research psychology from Illinois State University, a BA from Beloit College, and is a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force including a year in Vietnam. He is a Licensed Psychologist in clinical practice in Atlanta, Georgia and is a member of the Anglican Church in North America. He is also Moderator and a frequent contributor to VirtueOnline.

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