“Familiarity breeds contempt,” says one old, tired cliché. I believe that familiarity can also breed other things, like complacency for example. I think this happens most often with truths, stories and events that we become over-exposed to. What eventually happens?
We tend to lose our sense of wonder and awe. When this happens, the extraordinary becomes commonplace. For some of us, a sermon on a subject so magnificent it should take our breath away, instead, creates heavy eyelids and eventually slumber.
Take the doctrine of the Incarnation for example.
The fact that the creator of all that we see and all that we are made a decision to vacate heaven for awhile and come down to earth and walk among us is, to me, the most awe-inspiring event that ever occurred. Space doesn’t allow me to go into detail about how this affects me, but suffice to say, I am overwhelmed.
We are all familiar with the nativity scenes depicting Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, wise men, shepherds, sheep, goats, donkeys and the like. It is through such art that we celebrate the Incarnation. However, I think just focusing on God’s incarnation in Jesus at Christmas is only part of the Greatest Story Ever Told.
You see, God began the incarnation long before Jesus was born and He continues that same incarnation into the present. Believe it or not, God incarnates now inside you and inside me.
Let me explain.
I am convinced that God planned His incarnation in advance. Further, I have come to believe that God’s entering into this physical world was not a one time occurrence. Instead, it was progressive.
Perhaps it started with His presence in the cloud and pillar of fire in the wilderness, and then became more solidified in the tabernacle. Once the Israelites had taken possession of the Promised Land, and began to coalesce as a stable society, God then had Solomon build a Temple and this became his earthly residence. In the most remarkable act of all, God then took on flesh and walked among us as Jesus Christ. After the completion of his mission and his ascension back into the heavenly realms, God’s next incarnation descended in the person of the Holy Spirit. Most remarkable of all, the Holy Spirit took up residence in each of us and now we, as the Body of Christ, are to carry on that incarnation in every breath that we take and every thing that we do. What an honor! Yet what a responsibility.
In a very real sense, we can say that we, as Christians, have a place of honor, blessing, and responsibility in God’s eyes. To be handed the reins of God’s unfolding plan of restoration on earth and tasked with carrying on the work of his Son is an honor beyond description. Few of us really pause and ponder just how incredible this is. If that’s not enough, hold on, because things become even more incredible. Through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, God has gifted each of us with talents that will allow us, if honed and utilized, to be markedly successful in accomplishing our part in his work, whether great or small.
Finally, our position of honor and blessing bestows upon us an immense responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to become the best version of ourselves for the sake of God and others. Only when, with the blessed assistance of the Holy Spirit, we develop our gifts and talents to their fullest can we be all that God intended us to be. We have a responsibility to God, the world, and our mission.
Perhaps some of you who are old enough remember an old Army television commercial that encouraged potential recruits to enlist and, as the ad put it, “be all that you can be.” Now, I’m not sure how many people joined the Army and reached their full potential. I am convinced, however, that if we work in concert with the indwelling Holy Spirit we can become the best version of who we are. Moreover, I believe that in growing through Christ into our full potential, we bring glory to God. After all, that’s what he created us to be.